Air Traffic Controllers Launch Partial Strike at Ben-Gurion Airport

Departing flights stay grounded though arrivals continue to land on schedule; Workers protest 'biased' probe.

Air traffic controllers at Ben-Gurion Airport launched a partial "Italian" strike Thursday morning, halting departing flights while continuing to allow planes to land as scheduled. By late Wednesday the morning, the airport gradually began resuming outgoing flights.

The traffic controllers are protesting the findings of a recent report issued by the chief investigator of aerial accidents, Yitzhak Raz.

Raz probed a September 2006 incident in which an Israir jet nearly collided with an aircraft operated by the Italian carrier Eurofly Airlines. The Eurofly plane was set to take off when an El Al pilot noticed what was about to occur and alerted the traffic control tower. Raz's report faulted the air traffic controllers for the mishap.

The traffic controllers say the report is a product of Raz's bias against them. The workers are demanding that a committee of experts from outside the country investigate the matter and issue its own report. Management at the Israel Airports Authority ordered the traffic controllers to return to work immediately.

The partial strike began after most of the flights which were scheduled to take off Thursday morning had already departed. The next wave of departures is set for Thursday afternoon.