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Israeli jets nearly shoot down Tony Blair's plane

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    Israeli jets threaten to shoot down Tony Blair s plane Lee Glendinning Friday May 23 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , May 24, 2008
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      Israeli jets threaten to shoot down Tony Blair's plane
      Lee Glendinning
      Friday May 23 2008

      Tony Blair

      Tony Blair was unaware at the time that fighter jets were above the
      plane. Photograph: Martin Argles

      Two Israeli fighter aircraft threatened to shoot down a private jet
      transporting Tony Blair after coming under the misapprehension that
      the aircraft was staging a potential terrorist attack.

      Blair, who has served for 11 months as the Middle East "quartet"
      envoy, was en route to Israel from a World Economic Forum (WEF)
      meeting at Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt, on Wednesday morning when the
      warplanes were scrambled to intercept the jet, according to a report
      in the Times.

      It is understood air traffic controllers noticed what they thought was
      a suspicious aircraft heading into Israeli airspace from the Sinai
      peninsula and tried to make contact.

      Receiving no response, Israel sent out two fighters which flew above
      the civilian aircraft to indicate to the pilot he was being considered
      a suspect target.

      It was only after the warplanes were positioned in attack mode that
      the aircraft's crew made contact, informing air traffic control that
      Blair was on the flight.

      According to the report in the Times, the former prime minister was
      unaware of the situation.

      "They were unaware of it while they were on the plane," Ruti
      Winterstein, a spokeswoman for Mr Blair's office in Israel, told the
      paper. "They didn't hear about it until afterwards, from the media."

      Blair was travelling with other delegates from the WEF, who were among
      2,000 people heading for the Palestinian city of Bethlehem to attend a
      major conference on private investment which was hoping to attract up
      to £1bn for the Palestinian economy.

      The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that initial investigations
      suggested the communication breakdown was the result of a technical

      New systems have apparently been set up in the past few months to
      identify suspicious aircraft and Israeli forces have been on
      heightened alert for threats after Hamas knocked down a wall on the
      Egyptian border five months ago to allow Palestinians to buy food.



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