A grounded plane returned to the gate of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv after photos of air disasters appeared on passengers’ phones – sent, according to Israeli authorities, by nine people on board using the iPhone function AirDrop.
The incident happened shortly before AnadoluJet’s passenger plane was preparing to take off for Istanbul, the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) said.
The nine suspects, described by police as Israeli citizens, could be prosecuted for spreading false information, the IAA said. The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of three years in Israel.
“The nine (…) are suspected of having broadcast images of an air disaster on the plane, causing panic and delaying the departure of the plane by several hours,” police said in a statement.
“The nine suspects are being questioned by the police,” they said, adding that the offense could be interpreted as a “terrorist threat”.
Passengers alarmed by the footage informed the flight crew, and the pilot made the right call as he headed for the gate, IAA spokesman Ofer Lefler said.
“One woman passed out, another had a panic attack,” a passenger identified only as Diana told Israel’s Channel 12.
The IAA said those detained were removed from the flight, which was able to depart approximately four hours later.
Tuesday’s incident is the second such alert in weeks at the airport. On April 28, airport security officers found an unexploded shell in the luggage of an American family who had taken it as a souvenir during a vacation in Israel.
The discovery caused panic in the departures hall, and people were seen taking cover and running around in videos shared on social media. The family was allowed to board as planned.