American airlines barred from flying over Syria
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an order barring all American airlines from flying through Syrian airspace, saying the ongoing conflict poses a “serious potential threat,” Reuters news agency reported.
The FAA had previously warned American carriers against flying over Syria, the new rule however requires operators to contact the aviation authority before operating in the airspace.
The agency said the move was taken following an “updated assessment of risk” and a lack of airlines wishing to fly in the airspace.
“The ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment in Syria poses a serious potential threat to civil aviation,” the FAA said in a statement.
Syria is in the middle of a civil war in which 170,000 people have died since 2011.
The FAA also said “opposition elements” had warned civilian airlines not to provide service to Syria.
Armed extremist groups in the country are known to be equipped with anti-aircraft weapons that could threaten civil aircraft, Reuters said.
The ban applies to all U.S.-registered planes, commercial operators and FAA-licensed pilots. It makes an exception for flights operated with U.S. government permission and U.S.-registered aircraft operated by foreign carriers.
“Due to the presence of anti-aircraft weapons among the extremist groups and ongoing fighting in various locations throughout Syria, there is a continuing significant potential threat to civil aviation operating in Syrian airspace,” the agency said.
The FAA this month also restricted U.S. airlines and commercial operators from flying over Iraq as armed conflict raged and the United States launched air strikes.
‘We will drown all of you in blood’
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant group the U.S. has targeted in its airstrikes in Iraq, that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans “in any place” if the raids hit its militants.
The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English “we will drown all of you in blood”.
U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq have helped Kurdish fighters take back some territory captured by Islamic State militants, who have threatened to march on Baghdad.
The latest advance by the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, sent tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi ethnic minority and Christians fleeing for their lives and alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies.
Unlike al-Qaeda, Islamic State has so far focused on seizing land in Iraq and Syria for its self-proclaimed caliphate, not spectacular attacks on Western targets.
U.S. President Barack Obama said at a news conference on Monday that the Islamic State posed a threat to Iraq and the entire region.