The Federal Aviation Administration Wednesday extended for another 24 hours a flight ban preventing U.S. airlines from landing at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.
The agency, citing the “potentially hazardous situation” caused by the escalating conflict between Israel and neighboring Gaza, issued another Notice to Airmen shortly after noon EST. It informed the U.S. airline industry that it did not yet consider it safe to land passengers or cargo at the Israeli national airport.
“The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible,” the FAA said in a statement.
It meant that Delta Airlines, American Airlines and its holding U.S. Airways and United Airlines all had to ground Israel-bound planes for a second consecutive day. The FAA repeated that it instituted the flight prohibition “in response to a rocket strike that landed approximately one mile from the airport.”
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The notice only applies to U.S. airlines, and does not restrict El Al, the Israeli airline, or other foreign carriers departing New York or other large U.S. cities for Israel. Numerous foreign carriers, including Germany’s Lufthansa and the French airline Air France, however, have followed suit in halting flights into Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the Middle East in hopes of brokering a ceasefire, and the State Department on Tuesday refuted Israeli claims that the airport ban was a means of pressuring Israel to back off its attacks on militants and civilians in the Gaza Strip.
The FAA made the same point Wednesday, noting that the “agency’s responsibility is to act with an abundance of caution in protecting those traveling on U.S. airlines.”
Israel’s Transportation Ministry insists it is safe to fly into the country. Israel’s economy depends greatly on tourism to sites considered holy by all three major religions. In that sense, the flight ban imposes an economic cost on Israel.