TEL AVIV ø Israel has concluded that Al Qaida sought to stage an
airline suicide strike against the Jewish state.
Israeli officials said Al Qaida has been recruiting operatives for
flight training in an effort to hijack an airliner. They said the operatives
ordered to crash at least one passenger jet into an Israeli office tower in
Maj. Gen. Dan Helutz, commander of the Israel Air Force, said Al Qaida
sought to have hijacked an airliner leaving from Saudi Arabia. Officials
quoted Helutz as saying that Saudi authorities foiled this plan and arrested
Officials said Al Qaida has been trying to carry out such an attack for
more than 18 months. They said this has led the Israel Air Force and
civilian authorities to impose new regulations that would allow Israeli
fighter-jets to intercept or down any suspicious aircraft that approaches
Israeli air space.
[On Monday, the British Foreign Office warned of an imminent attack by
Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported. "We believe that terrorists remain determined to carry out further
attacks in Saudi Arabia," a Foreign Office statement in London said. "These
may be in the final stages of preparation."]
In December 2003, British officials reported that Saudi authorities
arrested two pilots who had planned to crash light planes into a Western
passenger jet. The officials were quoted as saying that Saudi security
forces found two light aircraft filled with explosives near Riyad
Since then, Israeli officials said, there has not been concrete
information of an Al Qaida plot to strike Israel by air. But in a closed
forum Helutz said the air force and civilian authorities would have to
maintain a high state of alert and adopt unspecified measures.
In September 2003, Israeli Chief of General Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon
warned that Al Qaida could recruit Saudi F-15 fighter-jet pilots to carry
out a suicide strike in Israel. The intelligence services of Israel and the
United States have assessed that Al Qaida has infiltrated the Saudi
Saudi Arabia has denied that it foiled an Al Qaida hijacking attempt of
an airliner for a suicide attack against Israel. An official at the Saudi
Defense Ministry denied such a plot or that anybody was arrested.