Abu Nidal terrorist attacks on Israeli El Al airline – December 27, 1985

Israel has been a terrorist target since its creation, forcing the country’s security agents to be imaginative.

Have you ever flown out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel? If so you know that it is an interesting experience when it comes to security. Given the constant threat the country lives under, as well as a number of attacks carried out against the aviation sector, it has elected to put in place a different approach.

You encounter your first security checkpoint as you are still a fair way from the terminal. As an Israeli tourism site expresses it:

When approaching the terminal, all vehicles pass through a check-point, this is just a quick check – expect to show your passport and answer where you are flying to.

I cannot think of any other airport where this happens.

Security seen checking cars at the entrance to Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
One of the perimeter checkpoints at Ben Gurion (Photo: FLASH90)

After that, security procedures continue inside the terminal. Again, from the tourism site:

Before checking in for a flight, airport security official speak with every passenger briefly… After the conversation, your bags will be passed through an x-ray machine, you’ll check in, and the procedure pretty well matches that which you’ll find anywhere else.

The Israeli government recognises that

Ultimately, Israeli airport security is tighter than what you find in most other countries around the world, and this can seem intimidating. If you just remember the reasons for this high security and stay calm, assuming you have nothing to hide, you should have no problems.

A passenger has his luggage checked by security personnel at Ben Gurion Airport. (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)
Security inside the terminal (Photo: AP)
Terror at the airport

Why this overbearing security? It is not complicated.

As noted, several El Al (the Israeli National Airline) check-in counters outside Israel have been attacked. One such event transpired on December 27, 1985.

A group which once struck fear around the world, the Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO), carried out near simultaneous attacks near the El Al check-in counters in both the Rome and Vienna airports. In all, 19 people were killed (three in Vienna and 16 in Rome) and hundreds were injured.

The eponymous founder Abu Nidal

ANO was created in 1974 as an offshoot of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and was opposed to that group’s peace endeavours with Israel. Over its active years it killed more than 300 people and received support from Iraq, Syria and Libya. It has been more or less inactive since the late 1990s.

Despite ANO’s decline, security at Israel’s airport remains high. I really cannot see that changing any time soon.


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