US air carriers cancel flights to Israel

America’s aviation authority has issued a request to cancel Israeli flights due to fears over rockets.

FILE: A missile is launched by an “Iron Dome” battery, a short-range missile defence system designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, on 11 July 2014 in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. Picture: AFP.

TEL AVIV - American carriers Delta, United and American Airlines said on Tuesday they have halted flights to Israel to ensure passenger safety as the turmoil in the region has intensified.

Delta and United said in separate statements that they have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv "until further notice."

Atlanta-based Delta said it was operating in coordination with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "to ensure the safety of our customers and employees."

The flight stoppages came after Hamas, the militant group that dominates in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv.

One rocket hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.

Casey Norton, a spokesperson for American Airlines, said an inbound flight and an outbound flight operated by its US Airways unit between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv were cancelled.

Esther Castiel, who heads US Airways' operations in Tel Aviv, said the FAA had "issued a request not to travel to Israel. All US carriers are stopping."

She added that it was not clear whether the travel halt was for one day or more.

The FAA did not immediately have a comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Lufthansa said it was closely monitoring the situation but that the German carrier has not yet decided to halt flights to Israel.

British Airways, which flies to Tel Aviv twice daily, said its flights continue to operate as normal.

Israel launched an offensive on 8 July to halt missile salvoes out of Gaza by Hamas, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank and suffering economic hardship because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

The move also comes following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 last week in eastern Ukraine.

The aircraft was carrying nearly 300 people and none surivived.

The US believes the aircraft was shot down by a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukraine government in the region.