WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that it was extending a ban on American carriers flying to and from Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for an additional 24-hour period.
The initial directive was issued on Tuesday at 12:15 ET. With the extension, the FAA said the ban will be in effect until 4:15 p.m. Thursday "while the FAA continues to monitor and evaluate the situation."
Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz criticized the FAA's decision. "We think it was inappropriate, even according to their own rules," he said Wednesday. "There was no reason to stop flights to and from Ben Gurion. The airport is safeguarded."
In an attempt to offer U.S. carriers an alternative airport option, Katz announced early Wednesday that Ovda Airport in the southern town of Eilat, near the Egyptian border, would be reopened at 12:00 p.m. local time.
So far, however, no international carrier has agreed to fly into Ovda, a spokesman for the Israeli Airport Authority told the Wall Street Journal. The FAA said Wednesday it would continue to evaluate the situation.
"The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible."
The FAA explained the initial "notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014."