FAA grounds all flights to Israel for 24 hours, citing rocket attack
[Breaking news update, posted at 12:45 p.m ET]
The FAA has told U.S. airlines that they are prohibited from flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport for a period of up to 24 hours.
“The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from” the airport on Tuesday morning, the FAA said.
[Previous version, posted at 12:13 p.m. ET]
At least two U.S. airlines suspended flights to Israel on Tuesday because of security concerns, with one company specifically citing a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.
Delta Air Lines and American Airlines both told CNN they suspended service to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. The American Airlines flights in question — between Philadelphia and Ben Gurion — are operated by US Airways, said American spokesman Casey Norton.
The Israel Airport Authority told CNN that the U.S. companies made the decisions on their own, and urged them to reconsider, saying that the airport was safe.
The suspensions come amid a conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza. The Israeli military said least 41 rockets were fired from the Palestinian territory toward Israel on Tuesday.
Delta, citing “reports of a rocket or associated debris” near the airport, said it suspended service between its hub in New York and Tel Aviv “to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees.”
One immediate effect: Delta Flight 468, which left New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday with 273 passengers, diverted to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport instead of heading to Tel Aviv as scheduled, the airline said.
“Delta continues to work closely with U.S. and other government resources to monitor the situation,” the airline said.
The Israel Airport Authority said the airport is safe. It called on the U.S. airlines to return to routine flight schedules at Tel Aviv.
“There is no reason that American carriers should stop flying to Israel and thus give a prize to terror,” he said.
U.S. State Department warns against nonessential travel
The suspensions come a day after the U.S. State Department asked Americans to consider deferring nonessential travel to Israel and the West Bank.
Monday’s travel warning reaffirmed existing guidance against any travel to Gaza, which the State Department says “is under the control of Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization.” The department urged U.S. citizens already in Gaza to depart immediately.
Visitors to Israel should familiarize themselves with the nearest bomb shelters in case of attack, and should avoid areas of Israel near Gaza due to the possibility of attacks from Gaza “with little or no warning,” the warning says.