FAA extends Israel ban

 

The Federal Aviation Administration is extending a ban on U.S. airlines flying to Israel for another 24 hours, despite high-profile objections from politicians in both nations.

The ban was originally issued on Tuesday afternoon, after rocket fire diverted aircraft near Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argued that the Tel Aviv was safe for passengers, and they complained that the ban would embolden Hamas leaders.

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The FAA said it was extending the flight ban for the next 24 hours to assess the situation in Israel further.

"Today the FAA issued another Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) informing U.S. airlines that yesterday’s NOTAM flight remains in effect for Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport for up to an additional 24 hours while the FAA continues to monitor and evaluate the situation," the agency said in a statement.

Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said on Tuesday the FAA's decision to ban flights to Tel Aviv "hands terror a prize," according to multiple media reports.

U.S. politicians like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) have also complained that the FAA's decision to suspend flights to Israel would undermine a critical U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Bloomberg flew to Tel Aviv on an Israeli airline Tuesday night to demonstrate that he thought it was safe for U.S. residents to continue traveling there.

Secretary of State John Kerry also traveled to Israel late Tuesday in spite of the commercial flight ban to try to negotiate an end to violence between Israel and Hamas that worsened this week, following an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza.

The fighting has left hundreds dead, as the international community scrambles to negotiate a cease-fire.

Kerry said early Wednesday morning that diplomats have not been able to reach a deal to end the fight yet.

"We’re working hard, and I’m not going to get into the characterizing, but we have certainly made some steps forward, and there’s still work to be done," he said.

The FAA said on Wednesday that it was "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 are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible."

The FAA added that its flight ban "applies only to U.S. operators, and has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport.

"The agency’s responsibility is to act with an abundance of caution in protecting those traveling on U.S. airlines," the FAA said.

— Mario Trujillo contributed to this report.