The aviation authority in Malaysia is investigating reports that an Israeli aircraft said to be equipped with intelligence gathering technology had flown over Malaysian airspace before being tracked to neighbouring Singapore where it landed at a military airbase in the city-state.
This comes after an earlier report by MalaysiaNow which quoted a defence journal as well as a flight tracking site as showing that the Boeing 737-400 aircraft owned by Israel Aerospace Industries-Elta (IAI-Elta), a defence contractor for Tel Aviv, had hovered over Singapore airspace for about four hours on May 24 before landing at the Paya Lebar airport, a former US army base.
“CAAM is in discussion with the transport ministry and is reviewing all technical data on this matter,” CAAM’s CEO Chester Voo Chee Soon told MalaysiaNow.
A check on air traffic website Flightradar24 showed that the aircraft with the registration number 4X-AOO was still in Israeli airspace on May 18.
A day later, the plane flew over much of the Klang Valley at an altitude of about 29,000 feet, way above the 15,000-foot control of airspace by Malaysian authorities.
Defence news journal Defence Security Asia had speculated that the plane could be carrying sensitive radar and reconnaissance equipment and testing a “new system”.
The report of the plane’s presence in the region had created anxiety in Malaysia, where anti-Israeli sentiments have been running high in the wake of renewed violence in the occupied territories.
Malaysia is a strong advocate of the Palestinian cause, and unlike its tiny neighbour Singapore, has no diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Earlier this month Putrajaya said it was on the alert for any possible attacks launched by Israeli agents targeting officials of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas residing in the country, following reports quoting warnings from Israeli spy agencies.
Meanwhile, an aviation security source who declined to be named told MalaysiaNow that any breach of Malaysian airspace could fall under the purview of the National Security Council, which should refer the matter to the Air Traffic Control (ATC).
“It all depends on whether the flight plan was a civilian airliner or a state aircraft. If indeed it was a state aircraft, the ATC was to divert the plane’s route,” it said.
But the source said there are also complex jurisdictional issues involving airspace in Malaysia and Singapore, adding that Malaysia does not control airspace above 15,000 feet.
“Most importantly, the question to be asked is whether there is coordination between relevant intelligence and enforcement agencies in Malaysia, as well as whether there are overlapping authorities between government agencies and the ministries,” the source added.