Israel airport safe, says minister
Posted on Jul 23 2014 | IANS
Jerusalem, July 23 : Israel's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that the country's airport is safe for landings and take-offs, despite the fact that a rocket fired from Gaza had landed near the airport.
The minister's remarks came after major US, European and Canadian airlines cancelled their flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport located in the outskirts of Tel Aviv, in response to the rocket strike near the airport Tuesday morning, Xinhua reported.
Katz called on US based airlines to return to normal operations.
"There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flight and give a prize to terror," Katz said.
Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration asked airlines to suspend all flights for at least 24 hours to and from Ben Gurion International Airport "due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza".
The issue was also addressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his talks with US State Secretary John Kerry Tuesday.
Netanyahu has asked Kerry to act to restore air travel.
Israel's flag air carrier El Al Airlines said that its "flights will continue as scheduled".
El Al has been known for continuing its flights even in war time.
During the 1991 Gulf War, El Al was the only airline that did not suspend its operations in Israel.
On Tuesday, Hamas targeted the Ben Gurion International Airport for the second time, but making the first successful attempt.
Hamas militants had previously said that they fired long-ranged M75 rockets at the airport, but they were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.
Ben Gurion International Airport is Israel's main gateway to the rest of the world.
During the first six months of 2014, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported a record of 1.5 million visitors to Israel, though that figure is likely to fall for the rest of the year due to security concerns.