On Tuesday, two Saudi F-15 fighter planes intercepted “an unidentified aircraft coming from the Horn of Africa [and] flying at a low level,” according to Saudi Arabian Arabic website, Jazan News.
The Saudi website didn’t mention its sources and did not provide additional details but said the authorities will treat the matter as “the situation requires.”
The incident caused the delay of a passenger plane that was ready to take-off. A passenger on the plane indicated that he saw two officers get off the fighter plane and were taken away by security personnel.
Meanwhile, citing its own sources, Eritrean website assenna.com has identified the plane and the pilots as Eritrean: Yonas Woldeab and Mekonnen Debesai.
The Saudi interceptors had flown from the Saudi Air Force base in Khamis Mushet.
Jazan is a port city in southwest Saudi Arabia close to the Yemeni border. In 2006, a military helicopter piloted by an Eritrean also landed in Jazan: the Eritreans asked political asylum.
According to the UN’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea first reported by Gedab News, the Eritrean Air Force, which is made up of 22 fixed-wing and 7 rotary-wing aircraft is operating at 30% capacity due to the total embargo that the UN imposed on Eritrea (UN Resolution 1907) which has made it nearly impossible for the Eritrean regime to import spare parts and conduct routine maintenance.
The Monitoring Group, which based its information on Eritrean defectors and Western diplomats in Eritrea estimates that, as of the date of its report in the summer of 2012, only 7 Eritrean military aircraft are operational. They are:
2 MiG-29 Fulcrum
1 Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker
2 Harbin Y-12
2 Mil Mi-17 Hip