Turkish Jet Grounded in Israel After Passengers Receive Images of Plane Crash; Nine Arrested

The jet was forced to return to the airport gate after passengers on the flight to Turkey reported receiving worrying images on their cellphones before takeoff; it is unclear who sent the images

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An Anadolujet passenger plane.
An Anadolujet passenger plane.Credit: Mehmet Mustafa Çelik/Wikimedia Commons

A Turkish airliner was forced to return to the gate at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday after passengers began receiving messages containing images of crashing planes on their mobile phones, the Israel Airport Authority announced.

Nine suspects, described by police as Israeli citizens and among the passengers, were removed and could be prosecuted for disseminating false information, the IAA said. The offense carries a maximum three-year prison term in Israel.

"I am sure the police and the security authorities will find out why they [the suspects] did it," Ofer Lefler, spokesman for the IAA, told Channel 12 TV. "One woman fainted, another had a panic attack," a passenger, identified only as Diana, told Channel 12.

The plane took off hours late after a security check of the plane, luggage and those onboard, Lefler said. 

The photos were sent via Apple's "AirDrop" feature, and so only iPhone users received them, the Ynet website reported. The images depicted a Turkish plane crash in the Netherlands in 2009 and a 2013 crash in San Francisco. 

The plane, which was identified as a AnadoluJet 737 by Ynet, ceased taxiing and returned to the terminal where security crews were mobilized to “take all necessary steps to ensure that there is no danger to passengers,” the IAA stated.

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