- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TEL AVIV (Agence France-Presse) — Israeli warplanes nearly shot down an American airliner carrying passengers from Newark, N.J., to Tel Aviv yesterday when the pilot failed to respond as the plane approached the Israeli coast, an airport authority official said.

Two Israeli F-15 and two F-16 fighter planes were scrambled to intercept a Boeing 777 operated by Continental Airlines as it prepared to enter Israeli airspace without responding to control tower demands to identify itself, the official added.

According to Israel’s private Channel-10, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy, the military chief of staff, were warned that the air force was on the point of shooting down a civilian plane suspected of being in the hands of hijackers.

The Boeing pilot at the last minute realized the situation and the danger threatening his craft and established contact while still over the Mediterranean Sea.

Escorted by the warplanes, the Boeing landed without further problems at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport where an inquiry was opened.

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