Netanyahu stranded in Warsaw after plane damaged before takeoff

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Netanyahu stranded in Warsaw after plane damaged before takeoff

Israeli prime minister forced to return to his hotel and spend another night in Poland, after his El Al flight is damaged on the runway

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to spend an extra night in Warsaw after his plane was damaged following an airport mishap shortly before departure from Poland.

He left at around noon local time on Friday, marking an inauspicious ending to a turbulent visit.

The prime minister and his entourage were on a chartered El Al plane after a two-day visit to a high-profile security conference, when a vehicle towing the aircraft on the runway crashed into it.

A photo circulated to travelling journalists showed large scrapes on the underbelly of the aircraft.

Mr Netanyahu and his wife were taken off the plane and ushered back to their hotel. Other aides, including his national security adviser and his military secretary, spent the night on the aircraft, saying they did not want to go through the hassle of pre-boarding security checks again.

A replacement plane was dispatched from Israel to urgently return the prime minster before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown.

Piotr Rudzki, a spokesman for Warsaw Chopin Airport, said the incident occurred as the chartered Boeing 777 was being pushed back from its parking stand.

There was damage to the plane’s front landing gear and lower fuselage, he said. Poland’s state commission for aviation opened a probe.

The mishap happened as Mr Netanyahu’s government tries to purchase an official plane for the prime minister to use.

It capped a tumultuous visit for the PM, who was in Poland for a US-sponsored security conference attended by several high-profile Arab officials from Gulf countries.

He had hoped to use the gathering to showcase his budding ties with the Gulf Arabs, but verbal gaffes and a video leaked by his office threatened to overshadow the event.

On the eve of the meeting, Mr Netanyahu appeared to call on other participants to prepare for “war with Iran”. His office later said he had been mistranslated and only called on other countries to “combat” Iranian influence in the region.

Late on Thursday, his office briefly leaked a video showing Bahrain’s foreign minister and representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates playing down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and harshly criticising Iran.

Mr Netanyahu’s office said the video’s release was a “technical error” and quickly deleted it.

The Israeli government also moved to insist he was misquoted by a newspaper on the sensitive issue of Polish behaviour during the Holocaust.

Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday that “Poles co-operated with the Nazis” – wording suggesting some Poles during the German occupation took part in killing Jews.

However, the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying “the Poles”, which could be taken as blaming the entire nation.

“The prime minister’s comments concerning Poland were misquoted by the Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article,” his office said in a statement.

The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador for an explanation and Polish officials indicated they were satisfied.

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