FAA Lifts Israel Flight Ban

Astronaut tweets 'saddest photo' from space

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 24, 2014 5:16 AM CDT | Updated Jul 24, 2014 7:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Amid heavy lobbying from Israel, the FAA lifted its ban on flights to Tel Aviv's airport just before midnight, saying it had reviewed "significant new information and measures the government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation." Israeli officials had urged the US to lift the ban, calling it a victory for Hamas, but American officials say politics didn't play a role in the decision. "We didn't use the FAA to do anything," Deputy National Security Adviser Anthony Blinken tells CNN. "The FAA makes independent judgments for safety and security of our airline passengers and for our airlines. They made a judgment, and we're not in the business of second-guessing the FAA or overturning what they do." More:

  • Ted Cruz threatened to block administration nominees in the Senate until his questions about FAA policy were answered, Time reports. He accused Obama of bringing in the flight ban to pressure Israel into accepting a cease-fire. "The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands," he said.

  • After 16 days of fighting that has claimed more than 700 lives, the situation in Gaza is "terrible" and 44% of the territory is now a no-go zone, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos warns. She says people are running out of food and water and a cease-fire is "vital," the BBC reports.
  • Despite the deteriorating situation in Gaza, a truce by the weekend appears unlikely, reports Reuters. Hamas leaders say they won't accept a deal that doesn't ease the economic blockade of Gaza, while Israel, which has now lost at least 32 soldiers, appears to want more time to destroy networks of tunnels under the territory. "I will oppose any cease-fire until it is clear both that the tunnels will be destroyed and what will happen in the post-cease-fire period—how we will guarantee that quiet for the residents of Israel will really be preserved in the long term," a security cabinet minister told Israel Radio.
  • As strikes on Gaza continued, German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted a photo of the region from space, in which explosions and smoke were clearly visible. "My saddest photo yet," he said.

The arrivals terminal is empty at Ben Gurion International airport a day after the the FAA ban was introduced.
The arrivals terminal is empty at Ben Gurion International airport a day after the the FAA ban was introduced.   (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
A departure flight board displays various canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion International airport yesterday.
A departure flight board displays various canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion International airport yesterday.   (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
My saddest photo yet, tweeted astronaut Alexander Gerst.
"My saddest photo yet," tweeted astronaut Alexander Gerst.   (Twitter)
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