(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Fearing an attack on the Dimona nuclear reactor, Israel Air Force fighter jets
on Thursday afternoon shot down a large balloon that was hovering over the
southern part of the Dead Sea and slowly moving toward restricted air space in
the Dimona area.
For several hours, it was unclear whether the intruder
had been a genuine threat or just hot air. But later on Thursday night, IAF
sources indicated that the suspicious object might have been merely a weather
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IAF radar stations had detected the flying object over the Dead
Sea in the early afternoon and scrambled fighter jets to identify and intercept
it, IDF sources said.
After determining that the balloon was unmanned and
concerned that it might have been dispatched to gather intelligence on the
reactor or might contain explosives, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan
ordered it shot down.
Airspace over the Dimona reactor – where Israel has
reportedly manufactured close to 200 nuclear weapons – is restricted and is well
protected by the IAF as well as surface-toair missile systems.
October, IAF jets intercepted an Israeli ultra-light aircraft that accidentally
flew into the restricted area, and accompanied it to a nearby landing strip.