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A German airplane heading for Israel was forced to make an emergency landing in Greece, Haaretz has learned.

The Lufthansa plane was on a scheduled flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv when the aircraft's crew became concerned a fire had broken out in the cargo hold.

Lufthansa did not release a report on Friday's incident, unknown to the public until Haaretz obtained details on Monday.

One of some 300 passengers aboard flight LH690 told Haaretz that panic had broken out as the plane began an unscheduled descent to the Greek city Saloniki - only a few days after flights resumed across Europe follwing fears that an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano could cause aircraft to crash.

After a two-hour stop, the Airbus-340-600 plane took off again, eventually arriving safely in Tel Aviv.

In response to inquiries from Haaretz, a Lufthansa spokesman said: "During the course of Lufthansa flight 690 from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv on 22 April a smoke detector was activated in the cargo hold.

"As passenger safety is Lufthansa's priority, the pilot decided to depart from his planned route and landed safely as the nearest airport, Saloniki, in order to allow a thorough inspection of the hold."