IAF scrambles jets to Tony Blair's plane

Quartet envoy was on way to Bethlehem; due to malfunction, plane failed to respond to control tower.

F-16 224.88 (photo credit: IDF)
F-16 224.88
(photo credit: IDF)
IAF fighter jets scrambled to intercept an unidentified aircraft suspected to be hostile this week, only to find out that it carried none other than Quartet Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair, a top military official said Friday. Blair, the former British prime minister, was flying on a private plane from the World Economic Forum summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to an investment conference in Bethlehem on Wednesday when his plane penetrated Israeli airspace and failed to respond to repeated control tower radio calls demanding it identify itself, the official said. As is common practice in such a case, the IAF scrambled two fighter jets to intercept the aircraft. They flew above Blair's plane and quickly established contact with the cockpit, whose pilot informed them of the famous traveler on board, the official added. Blair's plane apparently had a technical malfunction and could not hear the Israeli control tower's calls. When asked about the incident, the army spokesman's office said "the air force does not comment on its operational activities." Blair spokesman Matthew Doyle, who was also on board, said Blair and others were unaware of the drama unfolding around them and only found out about the incident when fielding calls from reporters. "Mr. Blair was one of a number of delegates on a flight back from the World Economic Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh," he said Friday. "We were not aware of any problem at the time, and have not been notified of any issue with the flight."