UK & World News

  • 24 July 2014, 3:33

US Renews Ban On Airlines Flying To Tel Aviv

The Federal Aviation Administration has extended its ban on US airlines flying to and from Tel Aviv in Israel.

The US air safety body said in a statement its warning on Ben Gurion Airport would remain in effect "for up to an additional 24 hours while the FAA continues to monitor and evaluate the situation".

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said later the measure was "for the safety of United States citizens".

Ms Harf said the US assessment shows Palestinian militant group Hamas does have rockets that can reach Ben Gurion Airport.

She described claims by Republican Senator Ted Cruz that the Obama administration was using the FAA to pressure Israel into complying with US foreign-policy demands as "ridiculous and offensive".

Hamas, meanwhile, said the worldwide flights suspension was a "great victory".

Carriers from the US, Europe and Canada grounded services on Tuesday when a rocket fired from Gaza landed near the airport.

A Delta Air Lines flight bound for Israel's busiest air hub had to be diverted to Paris because of the incident.

The FAA cited the "potentially hazardous situation" caused by the ongoing conflict in the region in its original 24-hour warning.

Delta, United, US Airways and Air Canada services to Tel Aviv remained grounded on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, UK budget airline easyJet, Air France and Germany's Lufthansa were among European airlines that cancelled more flights to Tel Aviv.

Air France suspended its service to the Israeli city "until further notice".

But British Airways said it still had no plans to cancel its twice-a-day Tel Aviv service.

The European Aviation Safety Agency recommended on Tuesday night that airlines avoid Tel Aviv "until further notice".

Israel's Transportation Ministry has insisted Tel Aviv airport is safe and said the FAA ban would "hand terror a prize".

Defiant former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Tel Aviv with El Al on Wednesday to show solidarity with Israel. 

Despite the advisory, Secretary of State John Kerry also flew into Israel's main airport to continue the push for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

He went to meet Israel's prime minister, the Palestinian Authority's president and the United Nations chief in a day-long visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The flight cancellations came as Israel continued its offensive in Gaza, which it launched on July 8 to stop Hamas firing rockets over the border.

Palestinian militants have shot more than 2,000 missiles at Israel, but many have been intercepted by its US-funded Iron Dome defence system.

Nearly 700 Palestinians, many of them women and children, as well as 32 Israeli soldiers and two civilians, have been killed in the conflict.