A settler pilot who owns two helicopters and has a small landing strip in the West Bank settlement of Itamar got into trouble this week with Israeli police who had no idea he was flying around until they came upon his parked helicopter.
His neighbors knew he was there. Peace Now, who claims his tiny airport is a hilltop outpost, have been aware of his activity for years.
But police and Border Police said they first caught wind of the pilot’s activities on Sunday, when they saw a helicopter parked at the site of the former Atarot Airport, located between Jerusalem and Ramallah, not far from the Kalandia checkpoint.
They were in the middle of a pre-Passover operation dubbed “cleaning out hametz” to find illegal Palestinian workers, during which they arrested 583 suspects, including one settler pilot.
They arrested the pilot near his helicopter, after they discovered that he lacked a license to fly and had no permits for his helicopter.
Police confiscated the helicopter and eventually released the pilot, albeit with some restrictions.
On Thursday, police made a surprise raid on Itamar and found the pilot had a second helicopter in a white hangar, as well as an ultralight plane.
Police also found what looked like a landing strip that he used an alternative airport from which to take off and land.
Police said they presumed that he had flown without any coordination with the Civil Air Authority.
Officers confiscated the second helicopter and are likely to take the small ultralight plane as well.
They released a video showing officers loading the helicopter onto a flatbed truck and in a press release to media wrote that his aerial vehicles are worth hundreds of thousands of shekels.
Police are still investigating the matter, but at this initial stage, they said that the pilot had endangered civilian and military aircraft by flying illegally in Israeli airspace in crafts that do not meet required standards.
His attorney Nati Rom said a Magistrate’s Court had determined that the case should be heard behind closed doors.
The police have “violated the law and leaked material about my client” just for a publicity stunt, Rom said.
Police have already closed seven similar investigations against my client, said Rom, “they will close this one as well.”
Unfortunately, the laws that govern Israeli airspace to not apply to the Area C of the West Bank, he said.
“We believe that the time has come to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria and that this should include the laws of aviation,” Rom said. “But unfortunately this is still not the case.”