As the death toll climbs in the Gaza Strip, the Federal Aviation Administration has suspended all flights to Israel, citing reports of rocket fire near the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. According to the FAA's Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which was released to all U.S. airlines on Tuesday afternoon, a rocket landed approximately one mile from the major Israeli airport. The suspension, which does not affect foreign airlines, will last 24 hours.
The FAA said in a statement:
The FAA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation. Updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines as soon as conditions permit, but no later than 24 hours from the time the NOTAM went into force.
The aviation agency alerted all U.S. airlines of the situation developing outside Ben Gurion on Tuesday morning, and prepared them for a NOTAM. Delta Airlines was the first airline to act, canceling all flights to Israel indefinitely. Delta typically offers several flights a day between its New York hub at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Tel Aviv.
According to the airline, Delta Flight 468, a Boeing 747 carrying 273 passengers, was en route from New York to Tel Aviv on Tuesday and diverted mid-flight. The plane will be landing at the Charles de Gaulle in Paris, and the airline said it will work to accommodate these passengers.
Delta maintains that the reason for ceasing all flights to Israel is to protect passengers from the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, which has moved closer to Tel Aviv in recent days. The airline said it heard reports of "a rocket or associated debris" strike near the major airport.
The airline added in a statement:
Delta has suspended service until further notice to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv and its New York-JFK hub. Delta, in coordination with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, is doing so to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees.
Delta customers who had tickets for future flights can request a refund through the Israel Refund or Compensation Request program. According to the Delta website, passengers "may be entitled to compensation if [their] flight was cancelled."
U.S. Airways, which is owned by American Airlines, has also canceled flights to Israel. Flight 796, which departed in Los Angeles and had a layover in Philadelphia, was canceled on Tuesday, according to the airline's flight tracking system.
United Airlines has also canceled its two daily flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, according to the live-tracking website Flight Aware. The flights were scheduled to leave at 4:45 p.m. and 10:50 p.m., respectively.
On Monday, the State Department issued a new travel warning regarding Israel and the Gaza Strip, replacing the alert that was issued last February:
The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank and reaffirms the longstanding strong warning to U.S. citizens against any travel to the Gaza Strip. ... Travelers should avoid areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip due to the real risks presented by small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars, as attacks from Gaza can come with little or no warning.
The State Department added that U.S.embassy and Consulate General personnel in the region are prohibited from traveling south of Tel Aviv, unless they have prior approval.
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