Departure lounge of new Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India,
Departure lounge of new Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, Photo by Bloomberg
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An embarrassing diplomatic debacle took place at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Saturday night, when three Israeli security officers employed by the Foreign Ministry found themselves in a violent altercation with Indian immigration officers, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor confirmed an incident took place at the IGI airport involving Israelis holding diplomatic passports, but didn't specify their identities or positions. "After several hours of investigation, all those detained were released without any legal action," Palmor said.

Times of India, which first reported the incident, claims the three Israelis, defined as "junior-level diplomats," assaulted an Indian immigration officer after getting annoyed about how long it took to approve their passage. The paper said the three got "upset" when immigration officers asked them to wait. They responded by screaming at him and accused him of intentionally delaying them.

The altercation quickly escalated to physical violence. According to the report, one of the diplomats slapped an immigration officer while the other two beat him up. The three, who were en route from Delhi to Khatmandu, were detained by the airport police and questioned under suspicion of assault.



However, the three Israelis were not arrested due to their diplomatic immunity. The India Police turned to the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi and informed them of the incident. The Times of India reported that the police is interested in further investigating the three, however has yet to get authorization to do so.

An Israeli official said that "each side claims the other side initiated the first blow." To assess what really happened, the security cameras at the airport must be checked. However, both sides are currently trying to play down the incident and move on.

Another Israeli official involved in the incident said the matter would be clarified with the three security officers. "No one intends on glossing it over or covering it up," he said. "This was an unpleasant incident. It took several hours but we managed to end it without any political damage that could have impacted our relations with India. Both Israel and India understand that such an incident cannot tarnish our relations."