NEWARK - 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.
The FAA said in a statement that the ban on flights to Ben Gurion International Airport is for 24 hours beginning at 12:15 p.m. EST on Tuesday.
The statement said the rocket strike landed about one-mile from the airport Tuesday morning. The notice only applies to U.S. airlines, since the FAA has no authority over carriers from other nations.
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Some U.S. and European carriers have taken the 24-hour ban a step further and have barred flights indefinitely.
Israel's flagship carrier, El Al, had a flight that left Newark for Tel Aviv Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. The airline's planes have missle defence systems and its pilots are specially trained.
Israelis in the airport seemed eager to head home despite the violence. "I want to go back," says one passenger. "I'm like dying to go back."
United Airlines canceled a 4:45 p.m. flight, forcing many people to change their plans or consider other carriers.
Galit Winer recently returned from Israel and says she understands why the restriction might be needed.
"Would I be personally afraid to go there? Probably not," she says. "But I understand the restriction. It's a war."
The FAA 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 effect.
Israeli officials are asking the airlines to reverse their decision to cancel their flights. The transportation ministry says that Tel Aviv's airport is safe and completely guarded.