Airport Authority: GPS jamming is forcing planes to land using alternative routes

After noise complaints from West Bank settlements, authority cryptically says disruptions likely caused by forces outside the country; Russia was blamed for interference in past

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative: An Etihad Airways plane lands at at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Illustrative: An Etihad Airways plane lands at at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Incessant GPS interference by unknown forces has recently forced planes landing at Ben Gurion Airport to use alternate routes over West Bank settlements in recent months, the Israel Airports Authority said Wednesday.

The cryptic IAA statement came in response to complaints by the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank on behalf of its residents — particularly from those living in the settlement of Hashmonaim — over intolerable noise from planes constantly passing above.

“In recent months, the State of of Israel has experienced non-stop GPS jamming from unknown sources, likely from outside the country,” Iris Raz, head of the environmental and engineering division of the IAA wrote, adding that planes are often unable to land using the usual approach.

Because of the disruptions, planes are forced to use a method that carries them over Modi’in Illit, Hashmonaim, Lapid and Kfar HaOranim. Airport activities have not been harmed by the issue.

Channel 12 reported that authorities were looking for a solution.

According to the network, authorities are investigating if Russia’s cyberwarfare units based in neighboring Syria — where its troops are propping up President Bashar Assad’s regime — and across the region are responsible for the interference.

File: Yisrael Gantz, chair of the Binyamin Regional Council attends a press conference on the current security situation outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Russia has denied allegations by Israel in the past that it was responsible for GPS jamming of flights around Ben Gurion Airport.

Moscow has in the past been accused of using a form of electronic warfare known as “spoofing” as a defensive measure despite the disruptions it causes to nearby aircraft and ships.

According to the Israeli Airline Pilots Association, spoofing sees GPS receive incorrect location data from a transmitter, making it appear to the pilot as though the aircraft is in a different location, sometimes miles away. As the GPS receiver continues to show location information, it does not immediately appear as a malfunction.

Binyamin Regional Council chair Yisrael Gantz said in a statement he was in regular contact with the IAA in order to solve the issue.

“We understand that there are constraints at the security and technological level, but we will continue the ongoing conversation with IAA officials to find alternatives and solutions to the issue,” he said.

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