Drones briefly halt Ben Gurion flights; civilian plane scrambles jets at Sderot

At Israel’s main airport, man arrested after drones cause short suspension of flights; army says police will deal with case of plane that failed to coordinate route near Gaza

An Israel Air Force F-16, December 31, 2015 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
An Israel Air Force F-16, December 31, 2015 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Two Israeli Air Force jets were scrambled Saturday to intercept a small unidentified aircraft spotted over the town of Sderot, near the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, flights at the country’s main airport were briefly halted because of drone activity.

An army spokesman said the civilian aircraft in the south was discovered to be an Israeli light passenger plane that had not coordinated its flight with authorities, in contravention of the law.

The army said the incident would be handled by police.

Flights at Ben Gurion International Airport were briefly halted after two small drones were identified near the airport grounds.

Illustrative photo of an El Al plane taking off from Ben Gurion Airport, August 5, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A 47-year-old man from Kiryat Motzkin was detained over the incident and flights resumed.

Drone-flying incidents near the airfield have halted flights on numerous occasions, including last weekend.

Last weekend security officials at the airport detained a Russian national after he was discovered operating a drone at the airfield.

The Israel Airports Authority has said the phenomenon is “a direct risk to the airplanes and to the safety of air travel.”

Once an expensive and complicated device, small multi-rotor drones have become ubiquitous in a few short years. According to the Civilian Aviation Authority, Israelis currently own approximately 20,000 drones that are used for everything from taking overhead videos at weddings to assisting rescue workers to locate people trapped in collapsed buildings.

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