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Despite safety fears, Kerry, Bloomberg fly to Israel

Secretary of State John Kerry.
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Secretary of State John Kerry.

Airlines around the world have followed a U.S. ban and suspended their services into and out of Israel following a rocket attack near the country's main airport. Despite the security concerns, Secretary of State John Kerry flew into to the country Wednesday on Air Force One, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew in on El Al.

Kerry planned to meet with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian authority to help reach a truce between Israel and the militant Hamas group, which controls the besieged Gaza Strip.

Bloomberg announced his arrival in a late morning EDT tweet.


The arrivals came a day after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a 24-hour ban on U.S. flights to Ben Gurion after a Hamas rocket landed about a mile away. The agency on Wednesday extended the ban for another 24 hours to midday Thursday.

Following the Malaysia Airlines disaster, which saw a passenger jet shot down over Ukraine last week amid ongoing unrest on the country's border with Russia, airlines and passengers are growing more cautious about air travel safety.

A number of airlines have already diverted their flights across central and eastern Europe—a heavily used route for services to Asia—after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Meanwhile, airport security on both sides of the Atlantic has been stepped up, with passengers now having to show that all their handheld electronic devices are fully functioning.

"I think, inevitably, the tragedy of Flight MH17 has really focused minds. We shouldn't forget there were statements by Hamas that they saw civilian aircraft as legitimate targets," independent aviation consultant John Strickland told CNBC on Wednesday.

"The industry has to stand on pillar of safety, above all commercial considerations."

The FAA on Tuesday said U.S. airlines were prohibited from flying to Ben Gurion Airport for up to 24 hours "due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza."

The move came after a rocket landed near the airport, which is located to the east of the city, on Tuesday morning.

Strickland, however, said the flight bans to Israel were unlikely to be the first of many, despite heightened caution following the Flight M17 disaster.

"Airlines would obviously wish to avoid it, and they're such a fundamental instrument of both business and leisure life," he said. "No airline is going to take unnecessary risks, but they don't want to be too cautious that they don't fly anywhere."

Late Tuesday, Bloomberg published a statement on his website saying: "This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel."

Read MoreFAA closes air route from US to Israel for 24 hours

He added that Ben Gurion Airport is the "best protected airport in the world" and that flights with the El Al airline had been regularly flying in and out of it safely.

"The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit U.S. airlines to fly to Israel," he added.

Michael Bloomberg
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Michael Bloomberg

Passengers due to fly to Tel Aviv around the world will be eagerly awaiting updates from airlines on Wednesday, after a number announced that they had suspended flights to the city the previous day.

Read MoreUS: Pro-separatists likely shot down MH17 'by mistake'

Before the FAA ban, U.S. airlines including Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended flights between America and Israel until further notice.

In Europe, the region's Aviation Safety Agency said it "strongly recommended" that airlines did not fly to Ben Gurion, and airlines including Lufthansa, KLM, Air France and easyJet canceled flights to the airport.

Read MoreUS airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear

The FAA has no jurisdiction over foreign airlines, however, and airlines like El Al, the flag carrier of Israel, are continuing to fly to the airport. British Airways (BA) is also continuing to fly to Tel Aviv, and issued a statement saying that it was monitoring the situation closely.

"It is perhaps of note that BA is still flying to the area," Strickland added. "But airlines seek the best possible guidance from a variety of sources, including a number of different agencies and their own intelligence sources."

A spokesman for Ben Gurion Aiport told NBC that Israel's Ministry of Transportation insisted the airport was safe for takeoff and landing, and was encouraging American airlines to return to their normal flight schedule.

—By CNBC's Katrina Bishop

Correction: An earlier version listed an incorrect schedule for Kerry.