Kerry justifies grounded U.S.- Israel flights to Netanyahu
United States (U.S.) Secretary of State John Kerry has justified to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the American ban on flights to Israel is due to safety concerns.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned all American aircraft from flying to Tel Aviv for at least 24 hours after a rocket attack took place near Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday.
According to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, Kerry told Netanyahu by telephone later in the day that the FAA would review the order within a day.
The notice "was issued to protect American citizens and American carriers," Psaki said.
"The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens," she said.
The FAA "continues to monitor and evaluate the situation, and will issue updated guidelines no later than 24 hours from the time the (notice) went into force," Psaki added.
Earlier in the day, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. said they were canceling flights to Israel.
A Delta Boeing 747 en route from New York to Tel Aviv turned around and flew to Paris instead.
In addition, United Airlines suspended service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely.
United said it was suspending its two daily Tel Aviv flights, adding one of its planes took off from the airport in Tel Aviv earlier on Tuesday but a second was still on the ground there.
Israel's transport minister, Yisrael Katz, responded furiously to the move. "There is no reason for these companies to stop flights. They have given a prize to terror."
Israel's Transportation Ministry issued a statement saying the airport was "safe for landings and departures."
"Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize," it said in a statement.
According to aviation and legal experts, airlines are now taking risk assessment into their own hands, in order to maintain safety of their passengers and avoid claims of negligence.
More than 630 Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded, including women and children, by the Israeli offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip.
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, has been launching attacks against Israel.
Israeli warplanes have been carrying out incessant airstrikes against Gaza since July 8. Last Thursday, thousands of Israeli soldiers launched a ground offensive into the densely-populated strip.