Syrian passenger plane’s approach to Israeli airspace said to cause scramble

Planes briefly grounded at Ben Gurion Airport after aircraft’s reported course deviation; TV report says air force jets launched over false alarm

A view of Ben Gurion International Airport near Lod on May 8, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
A view of Ben Gurion International Airport near Lod on May 8, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Flights at Israel’s main international airport were suspended for about 20 minutes due to air force activity Thursday.

Planes at Ben Gurion International Airport were grounded and landings called off from 6:45 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. while air force jets were scrambled to investigate an unidentified object approaching Israeli airspace in what turned out to be a false alarm, according to the Hadashot TV news outlet.

Channel 10 news later reported that a Syrian passenger plane had accidentally deviated from its course and flown towards the Israeli coast, prompting the scramble.

The Israeli military only confirmed that it had requested that the airport temporarily suspend takeoffs and landings.

An army spokesperson said it was part of “routine cooperation” between the air force and the civilian aviation authority.

“It was nothing irregular,” the spokesperson said.

The Hadashot report said civilian flights were allowed to resume once it had been established that there was no danger.

Several passenger planes were forced to circle over the Mediterranean while landings were suspended, according to publicly available flight data. No flights were canceled as a result of the brief suspension.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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