‘Sky Defender’ protects flights to Eilat against missiles from Sinai

Arkia Israel and Israir Airlines, which share the route to Israel’s southern tourism Mecca Eilt, have received a protective system against ground-to-Air missiles. The upgrade was installed for fear of terrorist organizations operating in the Sinai who might try to harm Israeli passenger jets flying near the border with Egypt, Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.

The order to install the systems on planes was issued two weeks ago by the security apparatus, in the days when ISIS-affiliated Islamists attacked Egyptian army and police bases in the Sinai. In recent days, Israelis flying to Eilat have noticed a prominent addition to the belly of the Israeli passenger aircraft.

The anti-missile defense system, known as Magen Rakia (Heb: Sky Defender), is an active protection system for civil aircraft against missile attacks, developed by El-Op (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems). The Magen Rakia system incorporates advanced fiber-laser with thermal imaging technology manufactured by Elbit, to produce a strong signal that jams a number of wave lengths, causing infrared-guided shoulder-fired homing missiles to stray from their path and lose their target.

The system is mounted inside a pod, on the belly of the aircraft. It has four sensors that allow detection, identification, tracking and ultimately disrupting the orbit of each rocket fired towards the airplane.

When a missile is launched at the plane, it is perceived and recognized by the infrared sensors. The sensors follow the missile until it reaches the appropriate distance, then directs at it a laser beam that “blinds” the missile’s guidance system “eye,” causing the missile to veer off course and miss the plane.

Last February, Elbit and the Ministry of Transportation conducted a final, successful test of the system, which has proven its effectiveness against a variety of threats. This was followed by a process of fitting Israeli passenger planes to carry the system.

Israel has committed $76 million to the development and procurement of the new system.

In recent days, several Arkia and Israir Boeing 757 and Airbus A320 planes began to carry the system, and additional installations are in the works.

Civilian airspace in northern Israel closed over fears

Israel closed the airspace in its North to civilian traffic following attacks on Syrian targets that were believed to be carried out by the Israeli military.

The closure comes after the Israeli military moved two Iron Dome missile defense batteries to northern Israel near Safed and Haifa on Sunday morning.

The Israeli domestic airline Arkia on Sunday canceled all flights from Haifa to Eilat for five days, saying in its statement that the closure was “due to IDF instructions on the closure of airspace in the North until May 9.”

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Sunday that President Obama  believes “the Israelis are justifiably concerned about the threat posed by Hezbollah obtaining advanced weapons systems, including some long-range missiles.” The U.S. “is in very close contact” with the Israeli government, Earnest said.

Syrian state media accused Israel of an early Sunday morning attack on what it identified as the Jamraya military research center located approximately 10 miles from the border with Lebanon.

The Reuters news agency cited an unnamed “Western intelligence source” on Sunday who confirmed the attack and said Israel targeted stores of long-range Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. The missiles have the capacity to strike Tel Aviv from Lebanon. Israel's military did not confirm nor deny reports that it was responsible for the attack.

Israel was said to be responsible for an attack on a Syrian target two days earlier; it has not confirmed or denied the attack.

Hezbollah operative tracked Israeli plane landings in Cyprus

The Hezbollah operative on trial for plotting against Israeli tourists in Cyprus acknowledged passing on Israeli aircraft landing times to his terrorist handlers.

Hosem Taleb Yaacoub on Thursday said in court that he recorded landing times for Arkia flights between Tel Aviv and Larnaca, the New York Times reported.

Yaacoub, who has a Lebanese and a Swedish passport, had earlier in the week acknowledged membership in Hezbollah and staking out areas frequented by Israeli tourists.

On Thursday, he said he relayed the landing times to his Hezbollah handler.

Yaacoub continued to deny witting involvement in any plot to kill Israelis, saying he did not know how the information he gathered would be used.

Two weeks after Yaacoub's arrest early last July, a suicide bomber killed five Israelis and a bus driver in Bulgaria, and earlier this month, Bulgaria implicated Hezbollah in the attack.

Yaacoub acknowledged receiving military training from Hezbollah. The trial comes as the United States and Israel are increasing pressure on the European Union to ban Hezbollah as a a terrorist organization.

“The United States of America and other countries have already included Hezbollah in its list of terrorist organizations,” Peres said Feb. 21 at a memorial service for Joseph Trumpeldor, a pre-state fighter who fell in battle 93 years ago. “Now, after it has been proved that Hezbollah was behind the terror attack in Bulgaria, on European soil, and murdered innocent civilians, and as reports increase of its involvement, along with Iran, in attacks in Cyprus and Nigeria, the time has come for every country in the world, and especially the European Union, to add Hezbollah to its list of terror organizations.”

Earlier this week, Nigerian authorities arrested three men suspected of staking out U.S and Israeli targets on behalf of Iran. Hezbollah often acts as Iran's surrogate.