Peres criticizes newspaper report that alleges lax El Al security

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JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Shimon Peres lashed out at the media for endangering national security in the wake of a newspaper report exposing allegedly lax security measures on El Al planes. Peres' remarks came in the wake of a report in the weekend edition of the Israeli daily Ma'ariv in which a reporter put a dummy bomb in a suitcase, checked it and then did not board the flight.

The plane flew to its European destination with the suitcase aboard.

In his comments during Sunday's weekly Cabinet meeting — the first since the Knesset approved his new government last week — Peres called the event scandalous, adding that newspapers would print anything to boost sales, even if it sometimes came at the cost of national security.

He also questioned why the government censor had allowed the article to be published.

Meanwhile, in response to the Ma'ariv report, El Al officials said this week that security checks would be tightened and that no flights would take off with luggage whose owner was not aboard.

At the same time, an El Al official quoted by the Israeli daily Ha'aretz attempted to deflect the criticism aimed at the national carrier, saying that the Port Authority was responsible for security on the ground at Ben-Gurion Airport.

"Explosive devices could have been planted on any plane taking off from Ben-Gurion, and not just El Al," he said.