Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Israeli air force scrambles jets after plane overflies nuclear reactor

The Israeli air force scrambled fighter jets on Tuesday after a light aircraft flew into restricted air space over its nuclear reactor in the southern Negev desert, officials said.

The warplanes intercepted the aircraft and forced it to land at a nearby airstrip, where the pilot were handed over to civilian authorities for investigation, an army spokeswoman said.

Police had no immediate comment but Israeli media reported that the pilot, who was flying from Rishon Letzion outside of Tel Aviv to the town of Arad near the Dead Sea, said that he lost his way.

Aircraft are forbidden from flying over the reactor near the desert town of Dimona.

Israel says the reactor is for research purposes, but defence analysts say it is the centre of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons programme. They say Dimona has been used to produce up to 200 nuclear warheads.

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