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Israeli officials: Belgium airport scare likely Iranian test of Israeli security

After suspicious bag found, two departure halls evacuated and Doha-bound flight forced to return to Brussels Thursday in what local authorities said was a false alarm

illustrative: Soldiers patrol as passengers arrive at a temporarily check in a terminal at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, Belgium, Monday, April 4, 2016.  (AP Photo/Laurie Dieffembach, Pool)
illustrative: Soldiers patrol as passengers arrive at a temporarily check in a terminal at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, Belgium, Monday, April 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Laurie Dieffembach, Pool)

A security scare at Brussels airport that saw the evacuation of two departure halls and a Qatar Airways flight to Doha recalled midflight on Thursday was an apparent attempt by Iran to test Israeli aviation security measures, Hebrew media reported Friday, citing Israeli security officials.

The incident started Thursday when a suspicious suitcase was found by Israeli security agents at the airport who turned it over to Belgian federal authorities.

They decided to evacuate two departure halls and a nearby building that was being used as a mass vaccination site, Brussels Airport said.

The bag was apparently found to belong to a passenger on a Qatar Airways flight from Brussels to Doha, which was forced to return to Brussels.

Belgian authorities inspected the bag and found that it did not contain explosives and announced that the incident was a false alarm. Flights resumed after a 90-minute delay.

Israeli security officials told the Ynet news site on Friday, however, that the bag was found to contain bottles of hand sanitizer and the owner, an Iranian woman, was taken off the flight and detained.

The Israeli officials said that given the location of the bag, near the check-in area of an Israel-bound flight, they believed this was a deliberate Iranian operation to test Israeli aviation security measures.

Channel 13 also reported the suspicions.

Ynet’s security analyst Ron Ben-Yishai said that the Iranians have become frustrated in recent years with their inability to stop Israeli operations against their nuclear program and weapons supplies to terror groups, in addition to their failure to respond in any meaningful ways, and are looking for other options at striking back at Israel.

Israeli intelligence officials told Ynet that they were “investigating the incident.”

Israeli officials assisted Belgium in ramping up their airport security policy after Islamist suicide bombers killed 16 people and injured over 150 in the departure hall of Brussels Airport in 2016. The bombings were part of a coordinated assault on the Belgian capital’s transport system.

The arrivals and departures board is seen behind blown-out windows at Zaventem Airport in Brussels, March 23, 2016. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)

Investigators later found that the bombers were trying to target Jews and Israelis at the airport.

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