Israeli security expert: Brussels attack a wake-up call for European airports

Israel's former airport security chief offers advise for tightening security at travel hubs; says governments must take steps quickly before another attack.

By REUTERS
March 24, 2016 10:36
3 minute read.

Israel security expert after Brussels attacks

Israel security expert after Brussels attacks

Israel's former airport security chief on Wednesday said the Brussels attacks should be a "wake up call" for European countries to reassess airport security protocol.

Several countries have tightened or reviewed airport security following bomb attacks in the departure hall of Zaventem airport, and a rush-hour metro train which killed at least 30 people and wounded some 271 on Tuesday.

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Prosecutors said the blasts at the airport, which serves more than 23 million passengers a year, were caused by Islamic State suicide bombers.

Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport is known for its tough security, including passenger profiling to identify those viewed as suspicious, bomb sniffing devices and questioning of each individual traveller.

The international airport routinely holds security drills where security personnel undergo simulations of security breaches, first and foremost at the checkpoints at the entrance to the airport compound.

Pini Schiff is the former security chief at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport and currently the CEO of the Israel Security Association which provides security services for more than 105 companies and government offices around the country.

It provides its services to most of the ministries in Israel as well as private buildings and pubic property.

"If you provide a system of security circles, your ability to locate a passenger that is supposed to be suspicious is six kilometers before he entered the terminal building," said Schiff.

"Every car, every driver, every passenger has to be checked before he entered the public area of the airport which is not done in any country all over the world," he said.

Schiff adds that the second security circle includes security agents and technology at the entrances to the terminal while in the third security circle, Israeli airport personnel do passenger profiling to identify suspicious passengers.

"The basic conclusion is that 99.9 percent of the passengers are not terrorists therefore, you have to define among 100 percent of the passenger, the one who is the terrorist meaning that putting energy, manpower, time, technology, checking all the passengers is a waste of time and a waste of energy. This is the basic logic that stands behind the profile system," he said.

Passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport said they felt there was much more security presence and inspection at the entrance to the terminal.

"Already in the entrance to the terminal there are a lot of security that inspect, that look at you, I don't think I look like a terrorist, they asked for my passport even before I got to the passport control. Security, there is much more security here indeed," said Yigal Azzad, a resident of Paris.

"There is much more sophisticated security here, unfortunately, we are a lot more experienced and in the world, I hope they will wake up too and will understand it as well," said Israeli citizen Yitzhak Ben Abo, who was travelling with his family to Paris.

The relative openness of public airport areas in Western Europe contrasts with some in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where travellers' documents and belongings are checked before they are allowed to enter the airport building.

Schiff said the Brussels airport attack should be a awake up call for European governments.

"This was yesterday in Brussels airport, a waking call and the government of Belgium and other countries has to deal with it very quickly because the next attack is I mean, is on the way," he said.

The Syrian-based Islamist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks, warning of "black days" for those fighting it in Syria and Iraq. Belgian warplanes have joined the coalition in the Middle East, but Brussels has long been a center of Islamist militancy.


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