Settler Charged After Nearly Downing Israel Air Force Plane

The Hercules pilots could not see the settler's helicopter, which took off from his private and illegal airstrip in an unauthorized outpost, nearly causing a collision

The private helicopter at Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank.
Police Spokesperson

An Israeli former reserves pilot was charged with illegally flying his private helicopter over the West Bank after nearly colliding with an Israeli Air Force Hercules transport plane over the Jordan Valley.

Yedidya Meshulami, who lives in an unauthorized outpost near the settlement of Itamar in the northern West Bank, was charged with flying only 500 meters from the transport, which was on a training exercise at the time.

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Pilots in the Hercules could not see Mesulami’s helicopter, but one of them managed to change course at the last minute and avoid a collision. Meshulami is being charged with flying illegally near Moshav Petza'el in the Jordan Valley, after taking off from his private and illegal airstrip near the outpost of Alumot. He was charged with a long list of crimes, notably operating an aircraft in a manner that endangers lives, a crime with a maximum punishment of three years in prison.

Meshulami, 44, has flown a number of aircraft from the airstrip in recent years, leading to mounting legal cases. His pilot’s license was revoked because of his flights over the West Bank, and in March 2018 Meshulami landed his helicopter near the Qalandiyah checkpoint north of Jerusalem without permission, leading to his arrest by Israel’s Border Police. During questioning, he told police he had wanted to take control of the checkpoint.

File photo: A Hercules transport aircraft at the Netivim Israeli Air Force Base, 2010
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

In the air force, he piloted a transport helicopter and took part in special operations missions. Meshulami also transported the IDF chief of staff.

The reserves pilot has four aircraft, including helicopters and an ultralight plane – none of which are registered legally. The latest indictment charges him with conducting dozens of illegal flights over the West Bank and Jordan Valley.