Washington, DC, United States (4E) – U.S. and European aviation authorities extended a ban on commercial flights to Israel for the second straight day Wednesday due to the risk of planes getting hit or downed by rockets being fired by Gaza militants into the Jewish state.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways from flying to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport for another 24 hours or until 11 a.m. EDT (1615 GMT) on Thursday. The agency imposed a flight ban on Tuesday after a rocket fell and hit a home in Yehud, about one mile from the airport.
Delta, United and U.S. Airways cancelled their scheduled flights to Tel Aviv for Wednesday.
“We will continue to suspend flying to and from Tel Aviv … and will continue to coordinate with the FAA to ensure the safety of our customers and employees,” a United spokeswoman said, according to Israel National News.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also extended the same flight ban prompting Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France, Poland’s LOT, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Finnair, Iberia, Air Berlin, Aegean and SAS to cancel services to Tel Aviv. Turkish Air also cancelled flights to Israel. Austrian and SAS, however, said they will resume flights to Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Aeroflot and Romanian carrier TAROM cancelled flights on Tuesday but resumed service on Wednesday.
Air Canada cancelled one flight on Wednesday and another for Thursday.
British Airways did not stop flights to Israel. So did El Al, Israel’s airline, which even flew former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Tel Aviv on Tuesday night in a show of solidarity with Israelis and to show that it is safe to fly in and out of the city.
U.S. Secretary State John Kerry also flew to Israel Tuesday and landed safely as he tries to help broker a truce between Israel and the Hamas that rules Gaza.
El Al Israel Airlines said it is adding flights to Israel and overseas destinations to accommodate stranded fliers.
Israel Transport Minister Israel Katz assured Tuesday that the airport is safe and said stopping flights to Israel gives terror a prize. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Kerry to lift the U.S. flight ban on Tuesday.
Israel opened an airport near the Red Sea port city of Eilat to all flights starting at midday as an alternative to Tel Aviv, but its 6,234-foot runway can only accommodate short-haul jets.
Hamas militants have fired some 2,000 rockets to Israel the past two weeks as hostilities between the two sides resumed after the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank and a retaliatory murder of a Palestinian teen. Israel has sent troops to Gaza to stop the rocket attacks.
The fear of an aircraft being downed by a rocket rose after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week that killed nearly 300 passengers and crews. The plane was believed struck by a missile fired from the ground as separatists battled Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country.