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Netanyahu asks Kerry to help resume U.S. flights to Israel

Reuters

July 22, 2014 | 5:24 pm

<em>Passengers and airline staff stand near a check-in desk of an airline that canceled its flight out of Tel Aviv at Ben Gurion International Airport on July 22. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters</em>

Passengers and airline staff stand near a check-in desk of an airline that canceled its flight out of Tel Aviv at Ben Gurion International Airport on July 22. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday to help restore U.S. commercial flights to Israel that had been canceled over the Gaza fighting, an Israeli official said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a 24-hour prohibition on flights by U.S. carriers to Israel earlier in the day after a Palestinian rocket struck near Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv.

An Israeli official said that Netanyahu, speaking to Kerry while the U.S. diplomat was in Egypt trying to broker a Gaza truce, "asked him to to work for the resumption of flights by American carriers to Israel."

Confirming the conversation, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the FAA notice was motivated exclusively by security concerns and was being continually reviewed.

Asked whether Netanyahu had asked the FAA to rescind the order, a senior Obama administration official said he was not aware of the request, but added: "We're not going to overrule the FAA, period."

"If the FAA says this crosses our tripwires, we're not going to say 'Don't warn civil aviation.' We understand Israeli concerns. They don't want to have a shutdown of air traffic into Ben Gurion. We can look at this every 24 hours, but (when) a rocket lands a mile from that airport, that kind of trips their wire."

Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams and Lisa Shumaker

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