Israel downs a Lebanese training plane, the pilot is killed
Lebanon-Israel, Local, 5/25/2001
The question of downing a Lebanese civilian plane to the south of the Palestinian city of Haifa on Thursday raised more than one question mark, but clearly revealed the state of tension Israel witnesses on the borders with Lebanon.
The main question remained not answered which is how trainee pilot Astafa Nicolian, who was killed in the incident could take off from Beirut's International Airport without a permission and to head towards the south where he was intercepted by the Israeli warplanes which escorted him along 100 kilometers on the Palestinian coast and then downed him by an air- to air missile that resulted in exploding the plane and the killing of its pilot.
This puzzle was clarified by the military investigation sources which had started immediately. It was found out that Nicolian was suffering psychological unrest and was known that he is fond of financial adventures which always led him to continuous losses.
While Israel said that it intercepted the plane when it entered its airspace, eye-witnesses in al-Naqoura district said that they saw the training plane at low altitude over the area escorted by Israeli warplanes and a helicopter.
In a statement about the incident, the Lebanese army leadership said that Nicolian took off from the airport without a permission and that he flew towards the south when he was intercepted by 4 Israeli warplanes and forced him to head towards the south after contacts were cut with him.
The Lebanese minister of the Interior Elias al-Murr said that information shows that this man suffers psychological problems and lives outside the country and that he was dragged to be involved in this incident by contacts from Israeli sides. Al-Murr denied any military operation in this incident, noting that this operation "might be fabricated" by the Israeli in order to be used for their interests in this present critical conditions.
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