Sinai missile threat leads to change in Eilat flight routes

Fears of a growing shoulder-to-air missile threat from Sinai lead to rerouting passenger flights.

January 10, 2012 02:21
1 minute read.
airplane, smoke [illustrative]

airplane, smoke [illustrative]_311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Due to fears of a growing shoulder-to-air missile threat from Sinai, passenger planes landing in Eilat have changed their final approach, cutting short the time they spend along the border with Egypt, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Eilat has one airport with one runway. Planes coming from the north land there by flying past Eilat until they are over the Red Sea. The planes then make a U-turn, fly back north and land.

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Concern among the defense establishment is that the planes could be targeted by man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) while passing over the sea, since they fly alongside several mountains that are in Egypt.

In August, a missile was fired at two Israel Air Force Cobra attack helicopters as part of a multi-stage attack from the Sinai Peninsula that killed eight Israelis. The helicopters detected the launching and immediately diverted from their flight path. They were not hit.

The IDF is disturbed by the growing presence of MANPADs in Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Israeli intelligence also believes that stockpiles of Libyan MANPADs have been smuggled into Sinai and possibly into Gaza.

Since the attack in August, the IAF has instituted new safety regulations for flights along the border. Such regulations have already been in place for almost two years for flights over the Gaza Strip.

Due to the growing threat, the government might consider moving up plans to construct a new Eilat airport. In July, the government approved a plan to build a new facility north of Eilat, near Timna Park. According to the plan, the Airports Authority will finance construction and operate the airport.

The cost of the project is estimated at approximately NIS 1.6 billion, with construction expected to take three years. An estimated 1.5 million passengers are forecasted to use the airport each year – approximately 90 percent of them on domestic flights.

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