US Airways to resume Tel Aviv flights, other airlines wait

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - US Airways said it would resume flights to Israel later on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted a ban imposed two days ago when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Tel Aviv airport.

About 30 carriers had suspended services to Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel's main hub. Other major airlines have yet to announce a resumption of flights.

Israel had criticized the FAA decision, saying the airport, was safe. Israeli airlines have picked up some of the slack.

US Airways, a unit of American Airlines Group Inc, flies daily to Tel Aviv from Philadelphia and the head of the airline's operations in Israel, Esther Castiel, told Reuters they would start running the route again.

A Delta spokesman said: "we hope to announce a renewal of flights soon but we don't have anything yet".

Germany's Lufthansa and Air Berlin said they are keeping the suspension in place until Friday morning. Britain's easyJet Plc canceled 16 flights on Thursday and said it is waiting for guidance from the European safety regulator EASA.

The FAA placed the ban in response to a Palestinian rocket that struck a building 2 km (1 mile) from the airport. Israel said the damage was debris from a mid-air rocket interception by its Iron Dome missile defense system.

Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel's heartland during two weeks of conflict, but Israeli authorities have emphasized the success of the Iron Dome in protecting Ben Gurion Airport, as well as a precautionary narrowing of air corridors.

Israel did, however, offer to expand operations at a smaller airstrip deep in its southern desert as an alternative for foreign airlines.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer, Tova Cohen and Thomas Seythal; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)