The Israel Police accidentally released sensitive information Tuesday when its aircraft broadcast flight data during a military operation carried out in the West Bank city of Nablus.
During the nighttime operation, Israeli security forces arrested 29 suspected Hamas members, some of whom have been imprisoned in Israel in the past. The police’s aircraft accompanied security personnel, which included members of the IDF, police and Shin Bet security service, during the evening raid, giving aerial support to the men on the ground.
The IDF deactivates the broadcast function on its aircraft during operation, but the police for some reason did not, Haaretz reported Thursday. Aviation enthusiasts quickly picked up on the aircraft’s signal, which continued to broadcast throughout the operation.
Hamas militants, logged on to the various websites or apps that allow individuals to track flights around the world, could clearly have seen that the flight took off in central Israel at precisely 00:32 a.m., circling around Nablus and the Palestinian village of Asira a-Shmelya.
They would even have been able to notice the make of the plane, a small Cessna aircraft. Older data revealed that the police aircraft was active in Tel Aviv during protests, in the West Bank, and over the Bedouin city of Rahat, all while its signal was available to the public.
Such services rely on a network of hundreds of feeders around the world that receive and share Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast transponders, providing callsign, GPS position, speed and altitude data.
Although the sites normally only provide data on civilian airliners and business jets, military aircraft are also equipped with similar transponders.
Israeli police are not the first to forget to shut off their flight signal, disclosing sensitive operational flight information.
During the 2011 raids on Libya, Canadian aircraft involved in the campaign were clearly visible on the tracking sites. Last August, a plane taking part in a US operation in Afghanistan that resulted in the killing of seven Taliban militants could be tracked for over nine hours.
Police declined to comment.