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Israel Closes Air Space To Planes
Wednesday September 12, 2001 2:20 AM
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel closed its air space to foreign planes Tuesday and evacuated staff from diplomatic missions and Jewish institutions around the world, in response to a wave of airborne terror attacks in the United States.
Israeli officials said they assumed Islamic extremists were responsible for the attacks in the United States. Israel has been a frequent target of attacks by Islamic groups, including a series of suicide bombings in the past year.
Hours after the devastating attacks in New York and Washington, Israel announced it was closing its airspace to foreign flights.
Only Israeli airliners would be allowed to enter Israel's air space, said Yerah Tal, an adviser to Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh. Israeli aircraft subject passengers to more stringent security checks than foreign carriers.
Tal said the limitation on foreign flights would be in effect for 24 hours, and then be reviewed.
Closing Israeli air space in peace time is almost unprecedented. Other cases of banning flights have occurred when hijacked planes were in the air.
An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli fighter planes were escorting Israeli passenger aircraft in and out of Israeli airspace. The report could not immediately be confirmed independently.
Police sent reinforcements to U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the two American consulates in Jerusalem, said police spokesman Ofer Sivan. ``Extra police have been sent, and security is being stepped up,'' he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed condolences to the American people in a call to U.S. ambassador Daniel Kurtzer.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), September 11, 2001