Delta Air Lines, United, and US Airways all canceled flights to Tel Aviv in Israel on July 22 because of safety and security concerns. The FAA prohibited U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv’s airport after a rocket landed nearby.
Air France, KLM and Lufthansa also canceled flights on Tuesday. Many travelers were being re-booked on El Al, Israel’s national airline, whose flight schedules are currently uninterrupted.
The FAA said it told the U.S. carriers that they were prohibited from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours. The airport is located 50 miles north of Gaza, within range of rockets being fired by the militant group Hamas.
In a statement, the FAA said its notice, which applies only to U.S.-based airlines, was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed about a mile from the airport on Tuesday.
“The FAA immediately notified U.S. carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike,” the agency said in a statement. It also said updated instructions would be provided.
The FAA notice cites “the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza” in prohibiting the flights by U.S. carriers.
According to Delta, Delta Flight 468, a Boeing 747 with 273 passengers and 17 crewmembers, diverted to Paris on July 22 after reports of a rocket near Tel Aviv.
US Airways also canceled a flight to Israel on July 22. Flight 796, which began in Los Angeles, was cancelled in Philadelphia before leaving for Tel Aviv.
United Airlines canceled flights 84 and 90 from Newark, NJ to Tel Aviv.
The State Department has been warning to defer non-essential travel to Israel since February 3 because of hostilities with the West Bank and Gaza.
Yisrael Katz, Israel’s Transportation Minister, called on airlines to return to their normal routes. “Ben Gurion is safe for takeoffs and landings and there are no security concerns for aircraft and passengers,” he said in a statement. “There is no need for U.S. carriers to suspend flights and reward terrorism.”
The order could take a toll on Israel’s economy, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“As soon as the FAA gives such an order to US carriers, in most cases it’s a domino effect, and most European carriers will be forced to suspend their flights,” a source told the newspaper. “This is a huge coup for Hamas.”
British Airways, which flies to Tel Aviv twice daily, said its flights continue to operate as normal.