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A spaceship flying over Israel?
A satellite or a Russian ballistic missile?
An unidentified flying object observed in Middle East countries Thursday night has caused panic, with people calling the police to say they witnessed a UFO.
The mysterious shining object seen in the skies swirled around and looked like smoke, some observers said. The object gave off light and was followed by a smoke trail. The strange flying phenomenon was also reported in Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries in the region.
The Israeli Defense Forces made a statement following the incident saying they were unaware of any operations in the area.
Some astronomical experts conjectured that the object was a satellite that had exploded in orbit, the Times of Israel reports. The newspaper also quoted a Lebanese report suggesting that the flying item was the remains of a meteorite, with its smashed pieces creating a dust trail that glowed behind it.
Prominent Israeli astronomer Dr. Yigal Pat-El, who is chairman of the Israeli Astronomical Association and an observatory director, told the Ediot Ahronot newspaper it is quite possible that the object was a ballistic missile.
"It most likely spun out of control and its remnants and the fuel was what people saw. It reached a height of 200-300 kilometers and that's why it was seen from so many locations," he told the newspaper.
Mr. Pat-El also said it was not a meteor: “It looked like a small body that suddenly started to grow and make spiral-like movements."
"After a while, it turned into a cloud….it looked like an object flying high above ground and then disintegrating," he added.
Suspicions that the shining flying object could be a missile were further fuelled by a Russian Defense Ministry statement saying the country had successfully test-fired a Topol strategic intercontinental ballistic missile.
The launch was made from Russia’s southern Astrakhan region to a testing area in Kazakhstan 3500 km from Israel’s northern border where the object was seen.
The Russian Vesti-24 news channel quoted unnamed military officials as saying the missile hit the practice target despite the fact that it had an unusual flight trajectory.
Similar reports of an object that went spiraling and then disappeared in the skies above Norway’s northern town of Tromso emerged in 2009. The Russian Defense Ministry later admitted it was a failed launch of a Bulava intercontinental missile.