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FAA lifts ban on US flights to Tel Aviv

Published time: July 23, 2014 17:07
Edited time: July 24, 2014 04:35

The Federal Aviation Administration said that it is lifting its ban on US flights to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, after flights to Israel stopped on Tuesday following a missile explosion close to the airport.

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The FAA has cancelled a Notice to Airmen that was renewed earlier today. Leading up to the decision, Aviation was working together with the government to properly assess the security situation in the country so as to mitigate any potential risks that might be posed to civil aviation.

The initial decision to ban flights was taken following a warning from the FAA after a rocket fell on the city of Yehud, located just five kilometers from the airport, Haaretz reported.

Air France and Germany’s two largest airlines on Wednesday canceled more flights to Tel Aviv because of ongoing safety concerns amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Lufthansa and Air Berlin extended their cancelations through Thursday and Air France said it was suspending its flights ‘‘until further notice.’’

The European Aviation Safety Agency said late Tuesday that it ‘‘strongly recommends’’ that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv, adding that it would ‘‘monitor the situation and advise on any update as the situation develops.’’

Major American and European airlines suspend flights to and from Israel

People stand in the Delta Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport July 22, 2014 in New York City. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Eric Thayer)

British Airways, however, said on Wednesday that it has not canceled any of its twice-a-day Tel Aviv flights, and has no immediate plans to do so.

A spokesman stressed that British Airways would not fly to Israel if the airline thought it was unsafe, adding that ‘‘each airline draws its own conclusion’’ on safety.

Aviation security expert Chris Yates told AP that British Airways would have assessed the situation with input from the intelligence services and ultimately concluded that there was an acceptable level of risk. He said this may be because the rockets from Gaza ‘‘are fairly rudimentary and can’t be targeted easily at planes in flight.’’

Yates said other airlines might have canceled flights due to the possibility that rockets could strike their plane on approach or take off. He added, however, that Israel’s Iron Dome defense system makes that very unlikely.

A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows smoke billowing from the coastal Palestinian enclave during shelling by the Israeli army on July 22, 2014. (AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)

Some airlines were forced to turn back planes on Tuesday. A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean Sea heading for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Russian airline Transaero also decided to turn back a flight bound for Tel Aviv. Flight number 311 was en route to the Israeli city but instead headed back to Moscow. A spokesman for the company said that Wednesday’s flights to Israel had also been canceled.

Airlines and passengers have been growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Clashes between Israel and Palestine entered their third week on Tuesday, and the death toll continues to increase. Reuters says the number of Palestinians killed has risen to more than 650.

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