A private helicopter that flew from Kiryat Shemona to Nahariya Sunday failed to fly on its approved course along the northern border, and instead flew in a straight line – thus spending a long time in Lebanese airspace.
The Israeli pilot spent 4.5 minutes over southern Lebanon, according to the inquiry into the incident. According to the Channel 2 Online website, he entered 3-5 kilometers into Lebanese territory and passed over Hezbollah-controlled villages including Hula, Barasheet, Bint Jbeil and the 'Aita a-Shaab area.
The northern aerial control unit of the Israel Air Force noticed the chopper after it crossed into southern Lebanon, and called it over the radio several times before the pilot replied. After speaking to him it became clear that the aircraft was not hostile and he was directed back into Israeli airspace, where he landed safely.
The incident was immediately reported to the Civilian Aviation Authority in Israel, which launched an investigation. The pilot’s civilian pilot’s license was taken from him and the inquiry will determine if he crossed over by mistake or whether the crossing was intentional after all.
A source close to the investigation told Channel 2 Online that the case was a severe one and that only luck prevented the chopper from being shot down by Hezbollah.