News / Middle East

    FAA Lifts US Flight Ban on Israeli Airport

    A departure flight board displays various canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights to the airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 23, 2014.
    A departure flight board displays various canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights to the airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 23, 2014.
    VOA News

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a ban on U.S. airlines flying in and out of Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, while continued fighting pushed the Palestinian death toll over 700.

    A truce remained elusive despite intensive mediation efforts. Israel said it needs more time to eradicate rocket stocks and cross-border tunnels in the Gaza Strip and Hamas Islamists demand the blockade on the enclave be lifted.

    An Egyptian official said on Wednesday that a more limited humanitarian cease-fire may go into effect by the weekend, in time for the Eid al-Fitr festival, Islam's biggest annual celebration that follows the fasting month of Ramadan.

    But the United States, whose Secretary of State John Kerry is spearheading the indirect negotiations, was more circumspect.

    “It would not be accurate to say that we expect a cease-fire by the weekend,” said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We are continuing to work on it, but it is not set at this point.”

    'Fluid situation'

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge

    The FAA said late Wednesday it canceled the restrictions after looking at new information and steps Israel is taking to lessen the risks to passenger planes.

    The flight ban went into place Tuesday after rocket fire from Gaza hit near the airport outside Tel Aviv.

    An FAA statement said it will continue to monitor what it calls a "very fluid situation" around the airport and will take additional actions if necessary.

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf acknowledged Wednesday that Hamas has rockets that could reach Ben Gurion airport, but the accuracy of those weapons is limited.

    Israel predicted take-offs and landings by U.S. carriers would resume on Thursday though European airlines might take longer to follow suit.

    “The Europeans did not really deliberate over this, but acted more as a follow-up to the American decision,” said Gadi Regev, chief of staff for Israel's Civil Aviation Authority.

    Death toll

    The death toll in Gaza rose above 700 on Thursday as Israeli tank fire before dawn killed 16 people in the Hamas-dominated coastal territory, including six members of the same family, Palestinian health officials said.

    • Palestinian children wounded after the shelling of a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip lay on the floor of an emergency room in Beit Lahiya, July 24, 2014.
    • A crater from an Israeli strike is seen in the yard of the U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians evacuate a man medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians search for victims under the rubble of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • A Palestinian man looks through a window scarred with shrapnel from a neighbouring building that police said was hit by an overnight Israeli air strike, in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians ride in a truck as they flee from Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry a wounded soldier to a helicopter near the Israel and Gaza border, July 24, 2014.
    • A general view of a mosque and a house that witnesses said were damaged by an Israeli air strike that killed two children, is seen in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Sgt. Max Steinberg, during his funeral at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, July 23, 2014.

    Israel has lost 32 soldiers to clashes inside Gaza and with Hamas raiders who have slipped across the fortified frontier in tunnels.

    Rocket and mortar shelling by Hamas and other Palestinian guerrillas has killed three civilians in Israel.

    Such shelling surged last month as Israel cracked down on Hamas in the occupied West Bank, triggering the July 8 air and sea barrage in Gaza that escalated into an invasion a week ago.

    Though Israel's Iron Dome rocket interceptor has shot down most of the rockets fired from Gaza, one that came close to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to bar American flights there.

    The ensuing wave of cancelations by foreign airlines emptied Israel's usually bustling international gateway and hurt its hi-tech economy at the height of summer tourist season. It was hailed as a “victory” by Hamas, and prompted an appeal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Kerry to intervene.

    In what appeared to be a let-up in Palestinian attacks, the Israeli military said on Thursday only one rocket had been launched from Gaza overnight. It fell wide, causing no damage.

    Cease-fire negotiations

    Israel's security cabinet met late into the night on a proposed humanitarian truce under which fighting would cease immediately, but negotiations for terms for an extended deal would begin only in several days' time.

    The cabinet's Science Minister Yaakov Peri Gaza said on Thursday a truce involving a withdrawal of Israeli ground forces from the Palestinian territory would be unlikely before next week.

    “I do not see a ceasefire in the coming days where the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) leave,” Peri, a former security chief, told the Walla news site, adding that troops needed more time to complete their mission of destroying cross-border tunnels used by Gaza guerrillas.

    “I can say authoritatively that two or three days will not be enough to finish tackling the tunnels," Peri said.

    Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his fighters had made gains against Israel and voiced support for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased restrictions on Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, who are also under an embargo by next-door Egypt.

    “Let's agree first on the demands and on implementing them and then we can agree on the zero hour for a ceasefire. ... We will not accept any proposal that does not lift the blockade. ... We do not desire war and we do not want it to continue but we will not be broken by it,” Meshaal said on Wednesday in Qatar.

    Israel also came under criticism from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who said there was “a strong possibility” Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 703 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting.

    Pillay also condemned indiscriminate Islamist rocket fire out of Gaza, and the United Nations Human Rights Council said it would launch an international inquiry into alleged violations.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted furiously.

    “The decision today by the HRC is a travesty,” he said in a statement. “The HRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas's decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques.”

    Rockets in school

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has also been on a truce-seeking mission, lashed out at militants in Gaza by expressing “outrage and regret” at rockets found inside a U.N. school for refugees, for the second time during the conflict.

    Storing the rockets in the schools “turned schools into potentially military targets, endangering the lives of innocent children,” U.N. employees and the tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter at Gaza schools from the fighting, Ban said. He urged an investigation.

    Kerry returned to Egypt late on Wednesday after meeting in Jerusalem and the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Ban and a grim-faced Netanyahu.

    “We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” said Kerry, on one of his most intensive regional visits since Netanyahu called off U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations over Abbas's power-share deal with Hamas in April.

    The military says one of its soldiers is also missing and believes he might be dead. Hamas says it has captured him, but has not released a picture of him in their hands.

    Gaza has been rocked by regular bouts of violence since Israel unilaterally pulled out of the territory in 2005.

    Hamas, which rejects Israel's right to exist, balked at Egypt's proposal for an unconditional truce, saying its conditions had to be met in full before any end to the conflict.

    The war is exacting a heavy toll on impoverished Gaza. Palestinian officials say at least 475 houses have been destroyed by Israeli fire and 2,644 damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals have also suffered varying degrees of destruction.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Christian Soldier from: USA
    July 24, 2014 7:30 AM
    if you want to see the future of the "west" - look to Israel... as Israel go so will the rest of US...!!! the people of Israel have always attracted envy and jealousy... they are the light to the Nations... Israel is US... may God bless you little Israel - light of the world.

    by: Thom H from: USA
    July 24, 2014 7:18 AM
    If the danger is gone, this is a good move. If not, it is foolishly political.

    by: Charles from: England
    July 24, 2014 7:05 AM
    Would u like it if Nigeria got bombed for being nigerian
    I bet u wouldn't wat hv those people done wrong nothing
    so why judge and criticise

    by: michael from: Nigeria
    July 24, 2014 4:57 AM
    Let meshal himself that is bragging comes to the war front: Please isreal carry on until all your enemy succomb

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora