US bars airlines from flying over Syria
Updated: 2014-08-19 11:07
Smoke rises after what activists said was an air raid by Syrian government forces at the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa August 18, 2014.[Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON - The US Federal Aviation Administration has barred all American airlines from flying over Syria, saying the ongoing conflict poses a "serious potential threat."
The FAA had previously warned American carriers to avoid flying over Syria. The new rule requires operators to contact the FAA before operating in the airspace.
The agency said the move was taken after "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, the agency said.
The ban applies to all US-registered planes, commercial operators and FAA-licensed pilots. It makes an exception for flights operated with US government permission and US-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 US airlines and commercial operators from flying over Iraq while armed conflict raged and the United States launched air strikes.
Information found on flightradar24.com, a website that provides real-time flight tracking services, shows that most major commercial airlines bypass both Syrian and Iraqi airspace.