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Thu, Apr 12, 2007

Reports: Israel Scrambled Fighters To Intercept Continental Jet

Airliner From Newark Failed To Contact ATC

Israeli officials confirmed Wednesday fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Continental Airlines flight that failed to identify itself when it entered the country's airspace.

Reuters reports the fighters escorted the Boeing 777 -- Flight 90, bound for Tel Aviv from Newark, NJ -- to a safe landing at Ben Gurion International Airport. Investigators are looking into the possibility the airliner experienced radio problems, precluding the flight crew from contacting ATC.

Though the incident ended peacefully, with an uneventful landing... when the first reports came in of an unidentified aircraft entering Israeli airspace, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his top generals were put on high alert -- a precursor to authorizing the use of force to down an unidentified aircraft.

"This was the closest we ever came to intercepting a civilian airplane," USA Today reports an unnamed military officer told the Jerusalem Post.

The Post adds the fighters intercepted the airliner within five miles of Tel Aviv. The pilots conducted a visual inspection of the plane and determined the commercial aircraft did not pose a threat.

"From the moment that we lost contact with (the jet) we treated the incident as a possible terror act. When the fighter jets approached the plane, they guided it west. It contacted us and that's how we were sure it was not a terror attempt," another source told Ynet News.

FMI: www.continental.com, www.idf.il/

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