Israel's Air Traffic Halted After Unidentified Craft Spotted Over Country's Center

Flights in and out of Ben-Gurion International Airport postponed until all-clear received from Air Force; new details emerge regarding incident in which UAV penetrated Israel's airspace over weekend.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Air traffic in and out of Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport was temporarily halted early Wednesday morning, after an unidentified object was sighted above central Israel.

Israel Air Force jets were scrambled to the site around 5 A.M. After the aircraft was checked out, the all-clear to resume flights was given.

Israel's defense establishment has been on heightened alert since Saturday, when an unmanned aerial vehicle managed to penetrate Israeli airspace.

According to the IDF, the drone arrived from the west, flying over the Mediterranean and the Gaza Strip before being shot down over a forest in the Negev, near the West Bank.

Meanwhile, new details have emerged regarding the incident.

Despite previous reports, the UAV was only shot down on the second attempt, after the first missile fired by an Air Force F-16 missed its target.

Previously, the IDF said it had let the craft fly over Israel for approximately half an hour before shooting it down for operational reasons and because it was flying over populated areas, before eventually downing it over an unpopulated area.

The failed first attempt to shoot down the jet was not included in a video clip released by the IDF Spokesman's Office following the incident.

The defense establishment believes the drone came from Lebanon, and that it may have been sent by the militant group Hezbollah.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said, "In the framework of the mission to protect the country's skies and security, the Air Force shot down the aircraft, while taking all the necessary precautions. Due to the nature of the situation, it is not possible to go into details regarding the complex professional procedure of shooting down aircraft on the pages of a newspaper. As is the norm in the Air Force, the incident will be professionally investigated."

Yediot Aharonot reported on Wednesday that the commander of the Air Force's 201 Squadron, Lt. Col. A., also participated in the attack.

On Monday, two days after the UAV incident, a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery was deployed in Haifa. IDF officials said, however, that the two incidents were not connected, and that such systems are deployed to the area from time to time.

Ben-Gurion International AirportCredit: Moti Milrod

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