Israeli warplanes almost shoot down Tony Blair's plane
Quartet envoy was on plane which failed to identify itself to control tower once it entered Israeli airspace.
Israeli fighter jets scrambled to intercept an unidentified aircraft suspected to be hostile this week, only to find out that it carried none other than International Mideast peace envoy Tony Blair, a top military official said Friday.
Blair, the former British prime minister, was flying on a private plane from the World Economic Forum summit in Sinai, Egypt to an investment conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday when his plane penetrated Israeli airspace and failed to respond to repeated control tower radio calls demanding it identify itself, the official said.
As is common practice in such a case, the Israeli air force scrambled two fighter jets to intercept the aircraft. They flew above Blair's plane and quickly established contact with the cockpit, whose pilot informed them of the famous traveler on board, the official added. Blair's plane apparently had a technical malfunction and could not hear the Israeli control tower's calls.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media.
When asked about the incident, the army spokesman's office said "the air force does not comment on its operational activities."
Blair spokesman Matthew Doyle, who was also on board, said Blair and others were unaware of the drama unfolding around them and only found out about it all when fielding calls from reporters.
"Mr. Blair was one of a number of delegates on a flight back from the World Economic Forum in Sharm El Sheik," he said Friday. "We were not aware of any problem at the time, and have not been notified of any issue with the flight."