Israel on alert as arriving flights temporarily landing from East, over West Bank
TEL AVIV — Israel is intensifying the search for surface-to-air missiles in Palestinian strongholds due the rerouting of air traffic into the Ben-Gurion airport.
Officials said Israeli authorities are concerned that Palestinian
insurgents, have or would soon receive
anti-aircraft assets in the West Bank. They said the surface-to-air missiles
were being smuggled from either the Gaza Strip or neighboring Jordan, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The goal of the terrorists is to destroy an Israeli airliner at
Ben-Gurion Airport," an official said. "It's a mission that is being
supported by Iran and Syria."
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The Palestinian anti-aircraft threat has been heightened by an Israeli
policy that will require aircraft to temporarily land in Ben-Gurion Airport from
the east, or the West Bank. Over the next six weeks, the Israel Airport
Authority has decided to use a runway that requires an eastern approach amid
renovations to other facilities.
"It's a risk," the official said. "It means flying low over hostile Arab
villages that might have SAMs [surface-to-air missiles]."
At this point, officials said, the Israeli military has been searching
for surface-to-air weapons in suspected strongholds of Fatah, Hamas and
Islamic Jihad. They said the most likely locations where the missiles were
stored or produced was the West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus and
The Israeli military has warned against using the runway, termed 26/08.
But officials said the Transportation Ministry informed the military and
Israel Security Agency of the new policy, which was accompanied by
additional unidentified security measures.
"Previously, airplanes did not fly over the area of Judea and Samaria
[West Bank]," Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadiah said.
"Recently the flights were approved in light of the staff work conducted by
the security system in the Security Department and the Transportation
Ministry, and after all the necessary security measures were taken."