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Arkia 757 avoids missile attack

ARIE EGOZI / TEL AVIV

Israeli airlines are considering equipping aircraft with protection systems following a failed missile attack on an Arkia Boeing 757-300 in Kenya last week. But no Israeli carrier has grounded aircraft or altered its services as a result.

Two surface-to-air missiles were fired in the direction of the aircraft immediately after take off from Mombasa on 28 November. None of the 261 passengers and 10 crew on flight 582 to Tel Aviv was hurt, and the aircraft was undamaged. Capt Rafi Marek says at 500ft (150m) the crew thought they had suffered a bird strike until they spotted the missiles' smoke trails. A systems check revealed no damage, so the crew continued to Tel Aviv.

As the aircraft was being fired on, suicide bombers attacked the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, killing at least 14, including some Israelis.

Israeli sources say that the attack bears the "fingerprints" of al-Qaeda or Hezbollah, although the previously unknown "Army of Palestine" claimed responsibility. The two terror organisations are known to be present in some East African states, and both have shoulder-launched missiles.

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