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U.S. airlines halt flights to Israel due to instability

Source: Reuters - Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:49 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Delta, United suspend operations to Tel Aviv until further notice

* American cancels flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv

* European carriers say monitoring situation (Adds background, details on United, Lufthansa)

July 22 (Reuters) - U.S. air carriers Delta Air Lines , American Airlines Group and United 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 U.S. Federal Aviation Administration "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 hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.

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

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

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 July 8 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. (Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta, Steven Scheer in Tel Aviv and Victoria Bryan in Berlin, editing by G Crosse)

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