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Israelis operating drone aircraft in Kosovo arrested, then released

JERUSALEM, June 9 (JTA) — Macedonian officials have released seven Israelis who were arrested while operating a remote-controlled aircraft monitoring the situation in Kosovo. The Israelis said Wednesday that their only goal was to serve international television companies by providing footage from battlefields and other sensitive areas. The drone operators are working for a company founded by former Israeli journalist Shlomo Goren, who said his team, which he claimed was arrested as a result of a misunderstanding, would continue its work in the Balkans. The group recently set up a company to use pilotless planes for the specific purpose of getting television footage from Kosovo. Goren said the company had obtained the necessary permits from NATO and the Macedonian Embassy in London, and was lawfully registered in the Macedonian government press office. Wednesday’s flight of the drone, which lasted one hour, brought back footage of burned and deserted villages in Kosovo. Shortly after it landed, a Norwegian officer with NATO confiscated the film, expressing concern that it would provide information on NATO positions on the border with Kosovo. Although the Norwegian officials later apologized for the incident, the Israelis were subsequently detained by local police and questioned about their activities. The Israeli Consulate in Athens intervened on their behalf and hired a lawyer who helped secure their release. In a separate development, an Israeli journalist was wounded Tuesday when he came under fire while driving from Belgrade to Kosovo. Ron Ben Yishai, a reporter for the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, suffered slight hip wounds and was taken to a hospital in the Kosovar capital of Pristina.