Israel is concerned that Iraq may attempt to strike civil aviation at Ben-Gurion International Airport as part of its response to a U.S.-led offensive to oust Saddam Hussein.
Western intelligence analysts also say that Iraq has readied a number of its longer-range aircraft for “one-way missions,” carrying non-conventional payloads and targeting cities in Israel.
Iraq has recently stepped up its efforts to transfer weapons and funds to the Palestinian Authority and terrorist organizations operating in the territories.
At least one Palestinian organization, the Arab Liberation Front, operates under direct guidance and with full funding from Baghdad.
The fears are that terrorists may attempt to strike at civilian aircraft taking off or landing at Ben-Gurion International using anti-aircraft missiles or, in the absence of such hardware, with anti-armor missiles from closer range.
About a year ago, a cell from the Arab Liberation Front, made up entirely of residents of the West Bank, was arrested a short time before carrying out an attack against Israel’s main international airport, on direct orders from Baghdad.
According to western analysts, the Iraqi air force has managed to prepare a number of its Soviet-made Tupolev-16 and Sukhoi-25 aircraft for suicide missions against Israel.
They would be equipped with a “dirty bomb” (radiological weapon) as a possible payload.
This piece ran in HaAretz on September 15, 2002