The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday extended its suspension of U.S. flights to and from Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv for at least another 24 hours as major airlines around the world continued to halt service to the country amid safety concerns.
The FAA is continuing to “monitor and evaluate the situation,” it said in a statement Wednesday. “The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible.”
The agency first issued a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, on Tuesday at 12:15 pm EDT, prohibiting American Airlines and pilots from flying to or from the airport for a period of 24 hours. The FAA made the decision after a rocket strike landed within one mile of the airport earlier in the day. The new NOTAM is in effect until 12:15 pm EDT on Thursday, July 24.
The European Aviation Safety Agency, which develops safety rules for its member states, also issued a warning Wednesday with a “strong recommendation to avoid Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion International Airport until further notice.”
U.S. carriers with service to Tel Aviv all canceled flights to the country on Tuesday, as other major international airlines, including Air Canada, Air France, Lufthansa and KLM, followed suit.
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Delta and United made their flight suspensions indefinite. US Airways canceled flights through Thursday while continuing to monitor the situation. Lufthansa also canceled flights for Thursday, while Air France suspended all flights until further notice.
Israel’s own three airlines, El Al, Arkia and Israir, were continuing operations as normal.
The suspension of flights comes at a time when airlines are exercising extra caution with international air travel, after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was downed by a missile over the Ukraine last week.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in contact with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday in hopes of reversing the decision to suspend flights. The halt in flights comes during the peak of the summer travel season. Tourism is critical to Israel’s economy, accounting for about 6 percent of GDP.