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(photo credit: Channel 1)
Adam Wexler, a test paraglider who floated into Lebanon on Wednesday, was charged in the Safed Magistrate's Court on Thursday for disobeying a military order and the negligent operation of a flight vessel.
Wexler, who was rescued from Lebanon by IDF troops, was arrested upon his return to Israel and spent the night in jail. On Thursday he was brought to court for a remand hearing.
Police said that paragliders require permits from the IDF and the civil aviation authorities before they are allowed to take off along the northern border. Wexler, police said, was intimately familiar with the regulations since he was a test paraglider for a commercial company
"He certainly doesn't deserve a prize for what he did," Kiryat Shmona Police chief Dep.-Cmdr. Faris Faraj said Thursday. "He asked for a permit from the IDF and his request was rejected but he still decided to jump on his own while putting people's lives in danger."
"This boy is very lucky," Faraj added. "Had the soldiers not arrived there could have been a disaster. He is lucky he succeeded in getting back into Israel."
Wexler's father, Dani, rejected the charges against his son. "I know the army," Dani told Army Radio. "And I know that my son would not have taken off without a permit from the IDF."
The 26-year-old paraglider narrowly escaped attempts by Hizbullah gunmen to take him captive Wednesday before the army safely returned him home.
Hizbullah gunmen opened fire at Wexler and engaged in fierce gun battles with IDF troops, as soldiers from the nearby Manara outpost opened the Fatma security gate to facilitate Wexler's return. No one was wounded in the dramatic rescue, but the gun battles continued even after Wexler was taken back to Israel, although they eventually died down.
Wexler, who jumped from the cliff top at Kibbutz Manara, was blown off course by the strong winds, and instead of flying eastward towards the Hula Valley was swept westward, landing some 50 meters inside Lebanese territory from the border fence.
Three Hizbullah gunmen riding in a vehicle spotted Wexler landing and opened fire as they advanced towards him. Soldiers returned fire, and Wexler reportedly sprinted over a minefield and headed towards the border fence gate, with Hizbullah gunmen following hot at his heels.
The IDF Spokesman later denied media reports from Lebanon claiming that IDF forces had encroached on Lebanese territory. "Under no circumstances did soldiers cross the blue line [the international border between Lebanon and Israel]; they opened the gate to allow the Israeli through while engaging in gun battles with the Hizbullah," a source in the Northern Command said.
Shimon Elhadad, a restaurant owner at Kibbutz Manara, told reporters he spotted Wexler shortly after he had taken off, battling with the heavy gusts of wind. "We saw him dropping inside Lebanon," said Elhadad; kibbutz members immediately alerted the army. Elhadad said it was fortunate that the IDF rescued Wexler before the Hizbullah reached him.
"If it wasn't for the army, I would still be in Lebanon. If the army hadn't rescued me I would probably not be alive. There were a few scary moments," he told reporters as he was being taken to the Israel Police station in Kiryat Shmona for questioning.
Security officials described Wexler's behavior as irresponsible. "His actions could have had serious consequences," an official said.
The incident occurred just hours after air force jets flew over Lebanon dropping thousands of flyers written in Arabic over Beirut suburbs, warning residents that Hizbullah activities will only bring them destruction and turmoil. Resorting to psychological warfare in the ongoing battle against Hizbullah, the flyers were dropped less than two days after air force planes shelled Hizbullah positions in response to the well coordinated but unsuccessful attempt to abduct IDF soldiers in Ghajar and Mount Dov on Monday.