Arkia Airlines flight IZ582 was just passing through the 500ft mark as it climbed out of Mombasa airport bound for Tel Aviv when passenger Ezra Gozlan heard a distinct boom from outside. As the plane shook, he looked up, just in time to see a small trail of smoke to the left of the Boeing 757 charter jet.
»It went about one metre above the wing. It was a bazooka or something like that,« the 62-year-old Israeli said yesterday. »I said to someone 'It's a missile', but he said 'No, maybe something got caught in the engine'.«
Other passengers were just as confused. »It felt like something fell off the wing,« said Kerry Levy.
On the flight deck, the captain, Rafi Marik, was running through the post take-off check routine when he felt a »light hit«. At first he believed a bird had hit the fuselage. Then he spotted two white vapour trails passing from the rear, not far off his port wing. His plane, with 261 passengers and 10 crew on board, was under missile attack.
The missiles were fired from shoulder-held Strela 3 launchers, Kenyan police reported later on. Eyewitness reports say they came from a white four-wheel drive vehicle parked more than a mile beyond the airport's perimeter. The launcher and missile casings were found nearby.