In what many experts see as a blow to Israel’s economy, US and European air carriers have halted flights to Israel, citing concern over Hamas rockets fired from Gaza and hitting an area near Ben Gurion airport, as US Secretary of State John Kerry pushes for a Middle East truce in his visit to Israel on Wednesday, July 23..
The US Federal Aviation Administration prohibited American airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours “due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza,” Reuters reported.
Later, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an advisory to airlines saying it “strongly recommends” airlines avoid the airport.
Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France, Air Canada, Alitalia, Dutch KLM, Britain’s easyJet, Turkish Airlines and Greece’s Aegean Airlines were among those carriers canceling flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns amid the increasing violence.
Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on the US aviation authority to reconsider, calling the flight ban “unnecessary” and saying Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system provided cover for civil aviation.
“Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize,” his office said in a statement.
An Israeli official said Netanyahu had asked Kerry to help restore the US flights.
A US official said the Obama administration would not “overrule the FAA” on a security precaution but noted the ban would be reviewed after 24 hours.
“The FAA’s notice was issued to protect American citizens and American carriers. The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The flights’ cancellation decision followed the firing of a rocked by Hamas resistance group that exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting the flights ban as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over Ukraine.
Israel has been launching relentless airstrikes against Gaza since July 8 where hundreds have been killed and injured.
Israel occupation forces started a ground invasion of besieged Gaza, home to two millions civilian, on Thursday, July 17.
The Palestinian death toll in an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip rose above 590, with more than 3660 injured.
According to the UN aid agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), the large scale of mass destruction in Gaza has left about 1,255 home severely damaged, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes that were caught up in the Israeli air strikes. ONISLAM