BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel – The first U.S. flights since the Obama administration briefly barred air travel to Israel arrived at the country’s main international airport Friday – and were immediately greeted by rocket alerts that sent arriving passengers to bomb shelters.
Israelis insisted, however, that their country is safe – and that the short-lived American ban on flights here had been unnecessary.
“We have the Iron Dome,” said a 22-year-old soldier who gave his name only as Lior, as he stood in a bombproof stairwell at Ben Gurion Airport. Next to him was his sister, who had just arrived from Chicago. “We can’t let the threats prevent us from doing regular things,” he said.
Hamas claimed it fired three rockets at the airport Friday. The Israeli military said it had intercepted two rockets above Tel Aviv. The rockets delayed an Air Canada flight’s landing, with air traffic controllers putting the plane in a holding pattern until the rocket fire abated.
The Federal Aviation Administration imposed the U.S. ban on air travel Tuesday for 24 hours, and then renewed it Wednesday before lifting it later that night. Europe also issued a ban that grounded Israel-bound flights. By Wednesday, nearly half of 400 flights to and from Tel Aviv had been canceled, according to Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Ofer Lefler.
The ban outraged Israeli officials, who in spite of their proclamations about the dangers the rockets represent said the country remained safe.
“This decision only rewards the Hamas terrorists,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.