The US Federal Aviation Administration barred flights to Israel Tuesday evening for 24 hours, citing security concerns.
The notice came after US airline Delta said it was indefinitely suspending flights between the United States and Israel.
US Airways also announced it was suspending flights, but only until Thursday.
United initially cancelled a Tuesday flight, then told all the passengers to come to the airport, then cancelled again saying the FAA prohibited them from flying, some passengers reported.
Later Tuesday, British carrier easyJet cancelled flights to Israel; Turkish, Lufthansa, KLM, and other airlines have also suspended flights.
The US airline moves were announced hours after shrapnel from a rocket damaged a home in the central Israeli town of Yehud, which abuts Israel’s main international airport.
The Civil Aviation Authority is currently trying to explain to these companies that Ben Gurion remains a safe destination, the agency’s spokesperson told The Times of Israel.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on Delta and US Airways to rethink their decision to suspend service to and from Israel.
These are “proper and normal” routes, Katz said. “Ben Gurion Airport is safe — takeoffs and landings — and there is absolutely no need to be concerned about the security of planes and passengers,” he says. “There’s absolutely no reason why American airlines in particular should stop their flights and thus hand a prize to terrorism.”
The airlines’ made their decision “of their own accord,” a spokesman for the Israel Aviation Authority told The Times of Israel, adding that it was not prodded by a decision by American aviation authorities.
The announcement comes as the Israeli campaign in Gaza entered its third week, and world powers pushed for a truce between the Jewish state and Hamas.
In a statement, Delta said it had diverted a flight bound for Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport to Paris on Tuesday following “reports of a rocket or associated debris near the airport in Tel Aviv.”
“Delta has suspended service until further notice to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv and its New York-JFK hub,” the airline said in a statement.
“Delta, in coordination with the US Federal Aviation Administration, is doing so to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees.”
The carrier said the diverted flight was a Boeing 747 with 273 passengers and 17 crew on board, adding that it was “working to reaccommodate these customers.”
Delta said it would continue to monitor the situation in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and others.
Delta and US Airways aren’t the first airlines to cancel their flights to and from Israel in the wake of Operation Protective Edge. Last week, Korean Airlines and a Norwegian shuttle took that step out of security concerns.