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A small private plane crashed in the northern Israeli port of Haifa Thursday afternoon, killing three people and critically wounding another three, rescue workers and police said.

They said the plane went down next to the tiny Haifa airport near the Technion university. Roni Atiya, a police officer at the scene, told Channel 2 that the plane crashed into an empty building at an air force base next to the airport. Media reports said some people on the ground were injured.

The names of the dead were not immediately released. Cyprus police said the plane took off from Larnaca with two passengers and two crew, all Israelis.

Channel 2 said the plane was a civilian Cessna. A police officer said the plane touched down on the runway then tried to take off again, crashing nearby. TV pictures showed the propeller and engine housing of the plane smoldering in front of a building as a firefighter sprayed water on it and police watched.

Police kept reporters away from the scene for two hours. Initial reports about the crash were based on telephone interviews with rescue workers and police at the site.

Channel 2 reported that the plane caught fire after hitting a power line. The TV station said that at the time of the crash, a graduation ceremony for female air force cadets was taking place a few yards away.