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Israel-Gaza conflict: Airlines cancel flights to Israel after rocket lands near Tel Aviv airport

The suspension comes days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine

European and US airlines have halted flights to Israel after a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv on Tuesday when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have suspended services between the US and Israel indefinitely, while Germany's Lufthansa and Air France also suspended flights.

Following the action by the US airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibited US carriers from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours.

Germany and France's largest airlines Lufthansa and Air France suspended all flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns amid the increasing violence.

Lufthansa said it was suspending all Tel Aviv flights for 36 hours, including those operated by subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss. The company said it made the decision as a precaution to protect the safety of its passengers and crews.

Air France said it was suspending flights until further notice for the same reason. The security department continues to monitor local developments in Israel.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Several heading toward the area of the airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defence system.

The Israelis are fighting Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in the third war in just over five years, and Israeli police confirmed that a rocket from Gaza had landed in an area near the airport.

Police spokeswomen Luba Samri said the rocket landing was the closest to the airport since renewed fighting began on July 8.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday while flying at 33,000ft.

Some experts have second-guessed the airline's decision to fly over an area where pro-Russian separatists are battling the Ukrainian army, but Malaysian officials have countered that the plane's path from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was approved by international regulators.

Aviation and legal experts said airlines are now taking risk assessment into their own hands, for the safety of passengers and to avoid claims of negligence.

Israel's Transportation Ministry called on the airlines to reverse their decision and said the airport was "safe for landings and departures".

Canada's largest airline also cancelled a flight to Israel and is monitoring the situation.

Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said the flight this evening was cancelled and officials will continue to evaluate future flights.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Ashley Kelahear said decisions to cancel flights are made by the airlines.

Ban Ki-moon: I believe I can end Gaza fighting

 

The UN secretary-general says it is his "hope and belief" that his emergency mission to the Middle East will lead to an end to the fighting between Hamas and Israel "in the very near future".

Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council by video conference from the West Bank city of Ramallah that he could not publicly reveal details of talks "at this highly sensitive moment".

"Suffice it to say it is my hope and belief that these talks will lead to results and an end to the fighting in the very near future," he said.

As Mr Ban started to address the council a siren could be heard in the background.

The UN chief has also visited Qatar, Kuwait, Cairo and Jerusalem in his bid to end the conflict.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the international community must hold Hamas accountable for rejecting multiple cease-fire offers and continuing its attacks against Israeli civilians.

Mr Netanyahu said Hamas is "like al-Qaida" and it must be dealt with accordingly.

Overnight, Israel bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hamas military chief, a Gaza police official said.

The Israel military announced earlier that two more soldiers had died - one from sniper fire yesterday and one from as yet unexplained causes - bringing the military death toll to 27.

It is the highest number of Israeli military fatalities for any campaign since the 2006 Lebanon war. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed in the latest conflict.

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