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John Kerry tells Netanyahu flight ban only for safety of Americans

PTI | Last Updated: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 07:32

Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a temporary ban on US flights to Israel was mainly to ensure safety and security of American citizens.

"Kerry spoke with Netanyahu this evening and among the issues raised by the Prime Minister was the FAA`s notice today about Ben Gurion Airport. The FAA`s notice was issued to protect American citizens and American carriers," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

Kerry spoke to Netanyahu by telephone yesterday after the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) prohibited US carriers from flying to Tel Aviv`s Ben Gurion airport for 24 hours after a rocket from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip landed near the aviation hub.

Kerry is in Cairo to broker a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict that has killed more than 630 Palestinians and 29 Israelis.

"The FAA continues to monitor and evaluate the situation, and will issue updated guidelines no later than 24 hours from the time the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) went into force," Psaki said in a statement.

Meanwhile, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf denied that the rare flight ban was aimed at pressuring Israel to accept a ceasefire in the two-week conflict.

Major European carriers have also halted services to Israel`s main international gateway, citing safety concerns.

Germany`s Lufthansa, Air France, Air Canada, Alitalia, Dutch KLM, Britain`s easyJet, Turkish Airlines and Greece`s Aegean Airlines were among those who cancelled flights to Tel Aviv.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg described this as mistake and said he is flying to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the people of Israel.

"This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.

"Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely," he said.

"The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately.I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel," Bloomberg said.

Palestinian militants have fired over 2,000 rockets into Israel since fighting began on July 8, but most of the fell harmlessly into open areas or were shot down by Israel`s "Iron Dome" anti-missile system.

First Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 07:32

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