Airplane landing at Ben Gurion
Airplane landing at Ben GurionIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Strong intelligence warnings that terrorists may attack Israeli passenger planes with shoulder-launched rockets spur the Cabinet to expedite defense systems.

One government official told Voice of Israel radio, ”No more delays can be tolerated," an indication that intelligence officials fear terrorists will not hold off much longer before trying to bring down a passenger plane.

Israel previously has announced it will equip passenger planes with a rocket diversion system, but the program has been stalled because of arguments over who will pay for the protection.

The worry of an air disaster has overcome the concern over funds, according to anonymous sources who spoke with Voice of Israel and were quoted by the Azerbaijan news agency Trend.

Official government and Defense Ministry spokesmen declined to comment on the report.

Military intelligence officials have warned for more than two years that Hamas and allied terrorist organizations have smuggled into Gaza anti-aircraft rockets.

Several routes Israeli air routes reportedly have been altered in order to distance them from Gaza.

A direct hit on a plane by terrorists would cause colossal damage to Israel. Besides the huge number of probable deaths, an attack would boost the standing of terrorists, embarrass Israel and would cost the country billions of dollars in damage to the tourist industry.

Planes to Eilat, because of their proximity to Egypt, probably will be the first to be equipped with the on-board systems.

A 2002 attack on Israelis in Kenya, when two missiles were fires at an Israeli charter plane, raised rang the alarm bells that on-board protection is needed.

Israel’s Elbit company previously has won a tender to supply defense systems.