US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear

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US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear
FILE - In this file photo taken July 22, 2011 a Delta Air Lines jet takes off at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Mich. Delta Air Lines on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 canceled all flights to Israel until further notice, citing reports that a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
FILE - In this file photo made Jan. 21, 2010, a passenger walks past a Delta Airlines 747 aircraft in McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus, Mich. Delta Air Lines on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 canceled all flights to Israel until further notice, citing reports that a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JULY 22: The relatives of Hassan Khader, killed by a Israeli rocket at the Shati refugee camp, mourn during the funeral ceremony in Gaza City, Gaza on July 22, 2014. The Palestinian death toll from Israel's ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip has risen to 609 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. (Photo by Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pakistani protesters torch Israeli and United Nations flags during a demonstration against Israeli military operations in Gaza in Multan on July 22, 2014. The UN chief and Washington's top diplomat were holding a flurry of meetings in Cairo to push for an end to violence in Gaza that has killed more than 590 Palestinians. As the conflict entered its third week, neither side showed any sign of willingness to pull back, with Israel pursuing a relentless campaign of shelling and air strikes, and militants hitting back with rocket fire and fierce attacks on troops operating on the ground. AFP PHOTO/SS MIRZA (Photo credit should read SS MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JULY 22: Funeral ceremony is held for Palestinian Hassan Khader Baker, killed by a Israeli rocket at the Shati refugee camp, in Gaza City, Gaza on July 22, 2014. The Palestinian death toll from Israel's ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip has risen to 609 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. (Photo by Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Israelis inspect the damage inside their house following a rocket fired by militants from the Gaza Strip, on July 22, 2014, in the Israeli city of Yahud, some 15 kms east of Tel-Aviv. The UN chief and Washington's top diplomat were holding a flurry of meetings in Cairo to push for an end to violence in Gaza that has killed more than 590 Palestinians. AFP PHOTO/GIL COHEN-MAGEN (Photo credit should read GIL COHEN MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JULY 22: The relatives of Hassan Khader, killed by a Israeli rocket at the Shati refugee camp, mourn during the funeral ceremony in Gaza City, Gaza on July 22, 2014. The Palestinian death toll from Israel's ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip has risen to 609 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. (Photo by Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KHAN YUNIS, GAZA - JULY 22: Palestinians, wounded in an Israeli assault, are taken to the Nasir Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on July 22, 2014. The Palestinian death toll from Israel's ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip has risen to 609 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. (Photo by Ramadan El-Agha/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers attended the funeral of Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, at the military cemetery in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Monday, July 21, 2014. Sgt. Carmeli from Texas, was killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing scores of Palestinians and more than a dozen Israeli soldiers and forcing thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their devastated Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israel says is a major source for rocket fire against its civilians. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israeli police officers remove debris after a rocket fired by Palestinians militants from Gaza destroyed a house, in Yahud, central Israel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Israel has said its campaign, launched July 8, is aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire into Israel — some 2,000 rockets have been launched over the past two weeks, the military says — and destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Israelis try to comfort a woman overcome by emotion after a rocket was fired by Palestinians militants from Gaza, in Yahud, central Israel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Israel has said its campaign, launched July 8, is aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire into Israel — some 2,000 rockets have been launched over the past two weeks, the military says — and destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Israeli police officers secure a destroyed house that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinians militants from Gaza, in Yahud, central Israel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Israel has said its campaign, launched July 8, is aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire into Israel — some 2,000 rockets have been launched over the past two weeks, the military says — and destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, during his funeral at the military cemetery in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Monday, July 21, 2014. Sgt. Carmeli from Texas, was killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Thousands of Israelis attended the funeral. On Sunday, the first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing scores of Palestinians and more than a dozen Israeli soldiers and forcing thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their devastated Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israel says is a major source for rocket fire against its civilians. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a joint news conference regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) listens to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking during a joint press conference following a meeting on July 22, 2014 at the Defense Ministry in the coastal Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Ban Ki-moon urged Israel and the Palestinians to stop the bloodshed in Gaza as he sought to broker an end to a fortnight of deadly violence. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
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In a sign of increased caution about flying near combat zones, U.S. and European airlines halted flights to Israel Tuesday after a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely. US Airways scrapped its one flight to Tel Aviv Tuesday. Germany's Lufthansa and Air France also suspended flights. The actions come days after a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board.

Following the action by the U.S. airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibited U.S. airlines from flying to the Tel Aviv airport for 24 hours.

The Israelis are fighting Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in the third war in just over 5 years. Israeli police confirmed that a rocket from Gaza landed in an area near the airport. Police spokeswomen Luba Samri said Tuesday's rocket landing was the closest to the airport since fighting began on July 8.

US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday while flying at 33,000 feet. Some experts have second-guessed the airline's decision to fly over an area where pro-Russian separatists are battling the Ukrainian army. But Malaysian officials have countered that the plane's path from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was approved by international regulators.

Aviation and legal experts said Tuesday that airlines are now taking risk assessment into their own hands, both for the safety of passengers and to avoid claims of negligence.

Aviation consultant Robert Mann said airlines are becoming more proactive in the wake of the Fligth 17 disaster.

"It's really forcing every carrier, every business jet operator to do their own due diligence, do their own risk assessment, given the geopolitical situation," Mann said.

Jonathan Reiter, a prominent New York aviation-accident attorney, said flying into an airport after a near-miss by a rocket could be used to show that the airline was negligent. That explains why airlines are suspending service to Israel.

"I'm sure it is human concern as well," Reiter said, "but I think (the airlines) feel it is wise to err on the side of caution because it is their burden to prove they are doing everything possible to avoid injuries and deaths."

Delta's one daily flight was already in the air. A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board. US Airways and United flights that were scheduled to take off later in the day. A Delta spokesman declined to go beyond the details released in a statement.

Israel's Transportation Ministry called on the airlines to reverse their decision and said it was trying to explain that the airport was "safe for landings and departures."

"Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize," it said in a statement.

Casey Norton, a spokesman for US Airways' parent company American Airlines, said the airline is "in constant contact with the FAA and are monitoring the situation closely." The airline has not yet made a decision about flights to Israel scheduled for Wednesday and beyond, he said.

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