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US, European agencies tell airlines not to fly to Tel Aviv

The Federal Aviation Administration is telling U.S. airlines they are prohibited from flying to the Tel Aviv airport in Israel after a Hamas rocket exploded nearby.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel. Several heading toward the area of Ben Gurion International Airport have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

The FAA said in a statement that the ban on flights is for 24 hours beginning at 12:15 p.m. EST on Tuesday. The statement said a rocket landed about one mile from Ben Gurion AirportTuesday morning.

The agency said it will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation, and that updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines “as soon as conditions permit, but no later than 24 hours” from the time the directive went into force.

The European Aviation Safety Agency also says it “strongly recommends” that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv. EASA’s statement Tuesday didn’t name a similar timeframe, but it said the agency would “monitor the situation and advise on any update as the situation develops.”

European airlines including Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia say they have already suspended all flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns.

Germany and France’s largest airlines Lufthansa and Air France also say they’re suspending all flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns amid the increasing violence.

Lufthansa said Tuesday evening that it was suspending all Tel Aviv flights for 36 hours, including those operated by subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss. The company says it made the decision as a precaution to protect the safety of its passengers and crews.

Air France says it was suspending its flights until further notice for the same reason.

Air France says its security department continues to monitor local developments in Israel.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Tuesday they are suspending service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely. US Airways scrapped its Tel Aviv service Tuesday and said it is monitoring the situation in regards to future flights.

A Delta Air Lines jet takes off at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Mich. in 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Delta Air Lines’ one daily flight was already in the air. Delta said a Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Israeli police confirmed that a rocket from Gaza landed in an area near the airport. Police spokeswomen Luba Samri said the rocket caused damage to a house and slightly wounded one Israeli.

Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Airlines have rerouted planes to avoid the area over eastern Ukraine where pro-Soviet separatists are battling the Ukrainian army.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration had no immediate comment.

A Delta spokesman declined to go beyond the details released in a statement.

United Airlines has cancelled its two daily flights to Israel out of Newark, N.J., according to spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.

US Airways, which has one daily flight from Philadelphia, canceled that flight Tuesday and the return trip from Tel Aviv.

“We are in constant contact with the FAA and are monitoring the situation closely,” said Casey Norton, spokesman for US Airways’ parent company American Airlines. The airline has not yet made a decision about flights to Israel scheduled for Wednesday and beyond.

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