Jeffrey Low, the father of a Baltimore-born Israeli soldier who was wounded in Gaza over the weekend, was flying to Tel Aviv on Tuesday to see his son when the news came: Ben Gurion Airport was under attack, and his flight was diverting to Paris.
"I believe a missile got through the Iron Dome," said the Pikesville man, referring to Israel's air defense system. He was at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he was busy making new travel plans.
Low, the father of Israel Defense Forces soldier Jordan Low, was one of hundreds of passengers delayed Tuesday as airlines canceled flights into Tel Aviv.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and others all halted service after Hamas, the militant group that dominates the Gaza Strip, fired more rockets into Israel. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben Gurion, lightly injuring two people, officials said.
Delta and United said in separate statements that they have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv "until further notice." Delta said it was operating in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration "to ensure the safety of our customers and employees."
The FAA issued a Notice to Airmen at 12:15 p.m. prohibiting U.S. carriers from flying to or from Ben Gurion for the following 24 hours.
"The FAA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation," the agency said in a statement. "Updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines as soon as conditions permit."
Europe's aviation regulator also warned airlines against flying to Tel Aviv. A spokesman said the European Aviation Safety Agency would issue a bulletin by Wednesday containing a "strong recommendation" that airlines avoid Ben Gurion Airport.
The Dutch carrier KLM, the German carriers Lufthansa and Air Berlin, and Air France all canceled flights. Several airlines rerouted or turned back flights already headed to Israel's financial center. Many were allowing customers affected by the cancellations to change their travel plans without penalty.
The flight suspensions gripped the attention of a global aviation community that is still grappling with the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine with nearly 300 aboard.
"The carriers are making the right call," said Robert Mann, an airline consultant in Port Washington, N.Y. "They are ultimately legally responsible for their operations and thus, they have to be at least as cautious and in many cases more cautious than any guideline that they are given."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials called for U.S. airlines to resume flights.
"There is no need for U.S. carriers to suspend flights and reward terrorism," Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement.
Netanyahu raised the FAA notice with Secretary of State John Kerry during a conversation Tuesday evening, a State Department spokeswoman said.
"The FAA's notice was issued to protect American citizens and American carriers," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens."
Jeffrey Low was traveling with his son, Joshua, on a Delta flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Ben Gurion when it was diverted. They are trying to reach Low's other son, Jordan, who remained in intensive care Tuesday recovering from smoke inhalation suffered in a rocket attack Sunday during an operation in northern Gaza.
Jordan Low, 19, joined the Israel Defense Forces after graduating last year from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore.
Jeffrey Low said he had given his passport number to a general in the Israel Defense Forces and was preparing to board a flight on the Israeli carrier El Al.
"The frustrating part is not this," he said. He was eager to see his son.
Jordan Low, a sharpshooter in Israel's Golani Brigade, was one of 15 soldiers investigating what they believed was a Hamas weapons cache in northern Gaza on Sunday when two rockets struck the building, Jeffrey Low said.
Jordan Low suffered injuries consistent with smoke inhalation, his father said. He is recovering at Rabin Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
The other soldiers suffered varying injuries, Jeffrey Low said, but all survived and were evacuated.
Israel launched an offensive this month to halt missile salvos out of Gaza by Hamas, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank as well as economic hardship due to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Israel blames Hamas for the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens last month in the West Bank. Three Israelis have been charged with abducting and killing a Palestinian teen near Jerusalem in apparent retaliation.
Reuters contributed to this article.
- West Bank
- Air Transportation
- Air Transportation Industry
- Federal Aviation Administration
- Israel Defense Forces
- United Airlines
- Ben Gurion International Airport
- Air France-KLM
- Delta Air Lines
- U.S. Department of State
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- John Kerry
- American Airlines
- Kennedy Airport
- Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport