Israelis Almost Took Out Tony Blair's Jet

Israeli Air Force were minutes away from shooting down Tony Blair's private jet.

ByABC News
May 23, 2008, 8:46 AM

JERUSALEM, May 23, 2008 — -- The executive jet being used by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was just minutes away from being shot down by the Israeli Air Force.

Blair, who is now the international community's special envoy to the Middle East, was traveling earlier this week to a special economic conference in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem from Egyptian airspace when two Israeli fighter jets were scrambled to intercept his plane.

Due to a technical fault in Blair's aircraft, its pilot did not respond to Israeli air traffic controllers' calls, leading to suspicions that the jet may have been on a terrorist mission.

The two Israeli planes flew directly above the Blair plane in a position usually taken before attack.

It was then the pilot of the executive jet realized something was wrong and hurriedly made contact with the Israeli air traffic controllers thereby ending the drama.

"They were unaware of it while they were on the plane. They didn't hear about it until afterwards," according to Ruti Winterstein, a spokeswoman for Blair's office.

There was no official comment from the Israeli Defense Force's press office, which normally refuses to comment on what its calls "operational" details.

But an unnamed security source contacted by ABC News confirmed that the incident took place and that the two Israeli fighters were scrambled in accordance with standard procedures designed to protect Israel's skies.

The special economic conference in Bethlehem has been convened to raise much-needed funds for the Palestinian Authority, and to stimulate an economic recovery in the hope that it will encourage Palestinians to support the current U.S.-backed peace process with Israel.