August 9, 2019 / 9:21 AM / 10 days ago

Israel says GPS disruptions in airspace end

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Weeks-long disruptions to GPS signals in Israel’s airspace have ended, officials said on Friday, declining comment on an Army Radio report that Russian electronic warfare - possibly coming from Syria - was to blame.

The disruptions were noted in early June by civilian pilots and confirmed by the Israel Airports Authority (IAA), which said the matter was under investigation and that alternative navigation tools meant there was no safety risk.

An IAA spokesman said the problem had been resolved this week, but declined to elaborate on when or how.

Israeli Army Radio said Russian electronic warfare, possibly emanating from neighboring Syria where Moscow has been backing Damascus against rebel forces, was the cause. The Russian Embassy in Israel dismissed that report as “fake news”.

Zeev Elkin, an Israeli security cabinet minister who has taken part in diplomatic contacts with Russia, was asked whether the Army Radio report was true during an interview on Friday.

“I prefer not to answer that question,” he told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM. “There were (GPS) disruptions. They vanished. That’s what’s important.”

Israel treads carefully in its relations with Russia, which has mostly turned a blind eye to Israeli air strikes against Iranian-linked targets in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who seeks a fifth term in a Sept. 17 election, has also played up his personal rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to draw votes among Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Elkin said that Putin had been invited to attend the inauguration of a Jerusalem memorial to Russians killed during Germany’s World War Two siege of Leningrad.

The memorial is expected to be ready in September, Elkin said. But he rejected Israeli media speculation that the timing was meant to bring Netanyahu another pre-election boost.

“When the Russian president wants to come, he’ll come ... If it happens in November or it happens in January - everything is possible,” Elkin said.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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