Passengers forced to evacuate Israel's main airport
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 01:56
Sirens signaling rocket fire sent passengers at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv scrambling to reach bomb shelters as regional security concerns prompted worldwide flight cancelations. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
U.S. air carriers Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group and United Airlines on Tuesday (July 22) halted flights to Israel under directions from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to ensure passenger safety as turmoil in the region has intensified.
A siren signaling rocket fire prompted sounded at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, prompting passengers to evacuate to the airport's bomb shelter.
"I came to fly, and my flight is delayed, and then it was canceled. And then there was a bomb alarm. The whole airport rushed into the bomb shelters. And it was terrifying," a passenger, Jeff Tizar, said.
The U.S. moves were swiftly followed by flight stoppages from European carriers, including Germany's Lufthansa, Air-France and Dutch airline KLM. Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest carrier, said it halted its flights through Wednesday (July 23), citing the situation on the ground in Tel Aviv.
Norwegian Air, and Scandinavian Airlines were also suspending flights.
The FAA said it told the U.S. carriers that they were prohibited from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours. In a statement, the FAA said its notice, which applies only to U.S.-based airlines, was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed about a mile from the airport on Tuesday.
The text of the FAA notice cites "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza" in prohibiting the flights by U.S. carriers.
Delta and United said in separate statements that they have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv "until further notice."
Many of the airlines said customers affected by the halts could change their travel plans without penalty. One passenger said he was trying to get a flight on a different airline.
"They just said the flight was canceled- operational issues - they didn't want to elaborate on that. And when I called them, they said there was no other flight and I would just ask them to book me on El Al, I'm trying to get on El Al now," Chaim Cantor said.
The flight stoppages came after Hamas, the militant group that dominates in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.
American tourists in Tel Aviv said they felt safe in the city, primarily because of Israel's sophisticated anti-rocket system, the Iron Dome.
Some called for support for Israel tourism in the midst of the crisis.
"A lot of businesses here have been hurt by the lack of tourism. And if you want to support Israel, the best thing you can do is be here and support literally in every way that you can, by helping out the businesses," a tourist from Philadelphia, Emily Steichgrabstein, said.
"Canceling the flights is not that bad of a deal as long as they re-initiate it. And I think what's incredible actually is the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system. The Israelis have perfected this," another American tourist, Wayne Godlin, said.
Israel launched an offensive earlier in July to halt missile salvoes 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.
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