Airlines cancel Israel flights; Gaza toll 621

July 23, 2014 - 2:41:49 am
Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood during a military operation in eastern Gaza City yesterday.

WASHINGTON: Major US, European and Canadian airlines cancelled flights to and from Israel yesterday after a rocket fired from Gaza struck near its main international airport in Tel Aviv.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned US airlines from Tel Aviv for at least 24 hours, citing the “potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza.”

“All flight operations to/from Ben Gurion International Airport by US operators are prohibited until further advised,” the FAA said, adding it would update its guidelines today.

Delta, US Airways and United Airlines heeded the FAA order, with Delta diverting a Tel Aviv-bound Boeing 747 with 273 passengers and 17 crew on board to Paris.

The European Aviation Safety Agency said it would recommend that all European airlines avoid Tel Aviv “until further notice.” Several announced flight cancellations, including Air France, Lufthansa and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Prompting the rush of cancellations was a rocket fired from Gaza which, according to Israeli police, struck north of the airport. One house was damaged in the Kiryat Ono Yehud region.

Israel tried to stem the damage, with its transport ministry Yisrael Katz calling American carriers to assure them there was “no security problem” for take-offs and landings at Ben Gurion, a civil aviation authority spokesman said.

Israeli flag carrier El Al said it would continue its service without interruption.

On the ground, Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip, saying no ceasefire was near as top US and United Nations diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting that has claimed 621 Palestinian lives in the enclave, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians.

TV channel Al Jazeera evacuated its bureau in Gaza when it came under fire yesterday. Two warning shots were fired at the building in central Gaza City housing local and international media as well as private apartments, prompting journalists and a number of families who had sought refuge there to leave.

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