Arkia plane in Eilat (file)
Arkia plane in Eilat (file) Flash 90

In recent days defense systems against ground-to-air missiles have been installed in planes of the Israeli airlines Arkia and Israir flying to the southern tourist city of Eilat, due to concerns that terror groups active in the Sinai Peninsula will try to attack Israeli planes flying near the Egyptian border.

The order to install the defense systems was given by the Israeli security system two weeks ago after Islamic State (ISIS) in Sinai claimed a rocket attack against Israel and staged a massive attack against Egyptian army bases in Sinai, according to a report in Yedioth Aharonoth.

Security services fear that terrorists in Sinai will launch shoulder-mounted ground-to-air missiles targeting the Israeli planes.

Israeli passengers have noted the bulging addition of the anti-missile system to the underbelly of planes flying to Eilat in recent days, according to the report.

The defense system by Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit, termed Magen Rakia (Sky Shield), is attached to the belly of the planes inside a separate pod. It includes four sensors allowing the detection, identification, tracing and eventually the disruption of the path of any rocket fired at the plane.

When a rocket is fired at the plane, it is identified by infra-red sensors in the Magen Rakia system. The sensors track the rocket until it reaches the appropriate range, at which point Magen Rakia aims a laser beam at it, blinding the homing mechanism of the missile and causing it to leave its path and miss the plane.

Elbit together with the Transportation Ministry in February conducted a successful test of the system, proving its effectiveness against a wide range of threats, after which it began to be incorporated into Israeli flights.

The state has so far obligated itself to investing $76 million into the system's development and implementation.

In recent days several Boeing 757 planes belonging to Arkia as well as a number of Airbus planes belonging to Israir have begun carrying the system, and additional installations are planned for the future.