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Thursday, December 16, 2010

IAF jets intercept unidentified object near Dimona reactor

IDF sources say unmanned object had an engine, was flying in closed airspace in Dead Sea area; shots fired after Air Force considers possible damage; army looking into incident.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli air force on Thursday shot down a suspicious object hovering over southern Israel, where the country's main nuclear reactor is located.

Israel's military said the object was "apparently a balloon" and that officials were investigating.

Airline flights over Israel's south, between Tel Aviv and the Red Sea resort of Eilat, were halted during the encounter, the military said. No further details were immediately available.

Israel Radio reported the object was shot down near the Dead Sea, in the general area of the nuclear reactor, which is located next to the desert town of Dimona. Israel enforces a strict airspace quarantine around the facility.

Foreign experts have concluded that Israel has made nuclear weapons there. Israel's policy is to neither confirm nor deny it has nuclear bombs.

In 1986, an ex-technician at the Dimona facility gave documents and photographs to a British newspaper that led experts to conclude that Israel had hundreds of nuclear weapons at the time.

Israel considers the desert reactor a prime target for attack by its enemies. Security in the area is especially tight.

The IAF was investigating the circumstances of the incident, including the possibility that intelligence was being gathered on the Dimona plant.