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Israel arrests 9 for 'AirDrop' of crash images aboard plane

This picture taken on August 3, 2020 shows the tail end of an Israeli El Al airline Boeing 737-958 aircraft on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli El Al airline Boeing 737-958 aircraft at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on 3 August 2020 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

A taxiing plane returned to the gate at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday after photos of aviation disasters popped up on passengers' phones – sent, Israeli authorities believe, by nine people on board, using the iPhone "AirDrop" function, Reuters reports.

The incident, on the AndoluJet flight that had been due to take off for Istanbul, was not a cyber-attack over the Internet, said Ofer Lefler, spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority.

The nine suspects, described by police as Israeli citizens and among the passengers, were removed and could be prosecuted for disseminating false information, the Authority said. The offence carries a maximum three-year prison term in Israel.

"I am sure the police and the security authorities will find out why they (the suspects) did it," Lefler told Channel 12 TV.

Passengers alarmed by the images informed the flight crew, and the pilot made the right call in heading back to the gate, Lefler said.

READ: Israel says arrests 2 suspects over deadly Elad attack

"One woman fainted, another had a panic attack," a passenger, identified only as Diana, told Channel 12.

The plane took off hours late, after a security check of the plane, luggage and those on board, Lefler said.

"AirDrop", which Lefler said was the method used for the file transfer, allows an iPhone user to send out images to other devices in the vicinity, if they are set to accept such input.

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