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Lost GPS in Israeli airspace? Russia to blame?

Israeli media have speculated that Russia might be behind the reported GPS disruptions at Ben Gurion international airport, prompting the Russian embassy to rejected the claims as ‘fake news.’

Pilots flying in and out of Israel’s biggest international airport have been experiencing trouble with their Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite signal, forcing them to switch to the older Instrument Landing System (ILS), the Israel Airports Authority said on Wednesday, without speculating about the culprit.

“As a result of the disturbances, changes were made in some of the entry procedures for landing to ensure safety,” the IAA said in a statement, adding that “at no stage was there a safety incident” related to the troubles.

The GPS problems have been going on for the past three weeks, according to the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA). The IAA says that “all of the elements in Israel have been working to solve the problem and find the source of the problem” from the first day.

This has not stopped the media from breathlessly speculating that “Russia” was behind the problem, citing anonymous sources and unnamed officials. 

One anonymous “aviation source,” for example, told the liberal daily Haaretz that the disruptions only happen during the daytime.

Likewise anonymous but “high-ranking” military sources reportedly told Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) radio that Russia was to blame, pointing to electronic warfare systems at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria, some 350km (217 miles) north of Ben Gurion. The Russian expeditionary force in Syria has used the airbase to conduct operations against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) terrorists and other militants.

The Russian embassy in Tel Aviv rejected those claims as “fake news” that it “couldn’t give a serious response to.”

Publicly, the IDF declined to comment on the source of the interference, saying only that its own operations and “superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum” were not affected.

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