NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — United Airlines will be the first U.S. carrier to resume flights to Israel after a two-day hiatus caused by combat in the Gaza Strip.
United says it will resume service to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv with a 4:45 p.m. flight from Newark Liberty International Airport. A second United flight will leave Newark at 10:50 p.m. eastern.
The decision comes hours after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on U.S. flights in and out of Israel, which the agency had imposed out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.
Before deciding to lift the restrictions, the FAA worked with the federal government to assess security situation in Israel and reviewed new information and measures taken by the Israeli government to protect commercial planes.
“The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions as necessary,” the FAA said.
The ban had been in effect since Tuesday, when a Hamas rocket landed within a mile of the Ben Gurion Airport. The directive, which was extended Wednesday, applied only to U.S. carriers.
Passengers WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell spoke with flying out of Newark Liberty International Airport showed no hesitation about flying to Israel.
“I don’t think there is any significant danger right to tourists or citizens more so than before,” Sarah Fax said, who grew up in Boston but now lives in Israel. “Their heart was in the right place, they were trying to protect their citizens, but it was overreacting.”
“To leave a place that’s special to you, that you love, that you feel connected to, when it’s being attacked is not easy,” Hindy Strauss said, who also lives in Israel.
Delta Air Lines, which diverted a jumbo jet away from Tel Aviv before Tuesday’s ban by the FAA, will not necessarily resume flights to Israel even if U.S. authorities declare the area safe, the airline’s CEO said before the FAA lifted the ban.
American Airlines, parent company of US Airways, which has one daily flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv said: “We are in the process of assessing the situation and will make a decision as soon as possible on when to resume service. Other factors will be considered before we resume, the most important being the safety of our crew and our passengers.”
Some foreign airliners, including Israeli airline El Al, went on flying into the region.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is due to arrive back at John F. Kennedy Airport Thursday morning after taking an El Al flight to Israel Tuesday night in a show of support.
“We’ve got to stand up and do what’s right. You can’t just get cowed when someone says something and go to the side of ultimate caution. That’s how terrorists win,” he said.
Bloomberg was greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
“We protect this airport. There’s no reason whatsoever for the mistaken FAA decision instructing planes not to come here,” Netanyahu said.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Bloomberg said he applauded the FAA’s decision to lift the flight ban.
The FAA has no authority over foreign airlines operating in Israel, although the European Aviation Safety Agency late Tuesday said it “strongly recommends” that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv.
Some European carriers, including Air France and Lufthansa, extended flight cancellations through Thursday.
At least 15 people were killed on Thursday when rocket shells slammed into a UN compound in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials blamed Israel, but as CBS 2’s Alphonso Van Marsh reported, the Israeli military said that Hamas may be to blame.
One young man said he was just about to be released from school when the shelling began. Israel’s military announced that it is investigating the incident.
Israel said that Hamas puts Palestinians in danger, placing rocket launchers and troops in civilian areas.
“The use of human shields is extraordinarily cynical. It’s grotesque,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
Hamas claims that Israel has targeted displaced Palestinians.
“Israel is continuing to make war crimes in Gaza,” Hamas Spokesman, Ihab Mohsen said.
in the sky over Ashkelon, just outside of Gaza, Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system shot down another incoming Hamas rocket on Thursday.
At least 167 rockets have been launched toward the city since the conflict escalated.
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