Flights Over War-Torn Syria Banned by U.S. FAA in Notice

The Federal Aviation Administration barred U.S. airlines from flying over Syria, the latest war zone judged too risky for civilian carriers.

The decision was made after the FAA reassessed the risks to aviation over the country, the agency said today in a statement. No U.S. airlines are currently flying over Syria, according to the FAA.

“The ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment in Syria poses a serious potential threat to civil aviation,” the agency said. “Armed extremist groups in Syria are known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft.”

The action is at least the fourth formal flight ban issued by the U.S. for foreign airspace since the July 17 missile strike that downed Malaysian Airline System Bhd.’s Flight 17 over Ukraine.

After closing skies above eastern Ukraine, where rebels are fighting the government, the U.S. also banned flights to Israel and Iraq. The Israel action was lifted a day later.

Syria has been locked in an increasingly sectarian civil war since 2011 that has killed more than 170,000 people and forced at least 10 million others to flee their homes.

The FAA had been discouraging carriers from flying to or over Syria. Until now, the agency had stopped short of blocking flights altogether as long as the airlines gave the agency advance notice.

Other nations, such as France, had last month ordered its airlines not to fly over Syria.

The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization set up a task force following the Malaysian Air tragedy to study how to improve the ways nations warn airlines about flying over active battlefields and other areas of unrest or conflict.

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