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Ex-Mayor Bloomberg Flies To Israel On El Al Despite Ban By U.S. Carriers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew off to Tel Aviv on the Israeli airline El Al Tuesday, as he claimed flying to Israel remains safe even though U.S. and European carriers have halted flights there.

The U.S. and European carriers decided to halt flights to Israel Tuesday after a rocket landed near Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv.

But Bloomberg said flying to Israel remains safe and should not be avoided. He spoke to reporters at the airport before he took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Photos: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

"Sure I'll take the flight. It's safe and it's efficient, and it's a great way to travel. And El Al is a great airline, and we have a lot of American airlines that are great too, and I just want them to be able to fly around the world, and land safely and in peace," he said.

In an earlier statement Tuesday evening, Bloomberg said Ben Gurion was the best protected airport in the world, and El Al flights have been coming and going safely.

"I'm not trying to prove anything," Bloomberg said at the airport. "I'm just trying to show that it's safe, and a great place to visit, and Israel has a right to defend its people, and they're doing exactly what they should be doing."

He said in the earlier statement that the flight restrictions are a concession to Hamas militants.

"The flight restrictions are a mistake that hand Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the (Federal Aviation Administration) to reverse course and permit U.S. airlines to fly to Israel," the statement said.

Bloomberg declined to say how long he would be gone.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely Tuesday. US Airways scrapped its one flight to Tel Aviv Tuesday. Several European airlines, including Germany's Lufthansa and Air France, also suspended flights. The actions come days after a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board.

Following the action by the U.S. airlines, the FAA issued a NOTAM, or Notice to Airmen, prohibiting U.S. airlines from flying to the Tel Aviv airport for 24 hours.

"The 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. The NOTAM applies only to U.S. operators, and has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport," the FAA said in a statement. "The FAA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation. Updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines as soon as conditions permit."

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

"Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize,'' it said in a statement.

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