[The following text is based on a Jordanian news report dated September 18, 1996 and an AP wire story dated September 21, plus additional internet sources. Thanks to Errol Bruce-Knapp and John Joseph Mercieca for contributing to this story.]
Mainstream news media in the Middle East as well as the United States carried reports of UFO activity over Jordan and Israel in recent weeks. One report of a 62-year-old Israeli man abducted by aliens was carried on radio news throughout the United States.
The English daily Jordan Times, in a story dated September 18, 1996, quoted Jordan's Arabic daily Al Dustour as saying that unidentified flying objects were reportedly sighted over the capital city of Amman the evening of Thursday, Sept 12.
"Strange but seemingly real objects with glaring lights of different colors moved in the skies of Amman Thursday night and were seen by a number of citizens," the paper said.
Jordanian Minister of Information Marwan Muasher, in reply to an inquiry through Internet, said: "On my way home from a dinner, I saw such strange objects Thursday night. I cannot explain what I have seen or find an explanation for this phenomenon."
Departments concerned were investigating the affairs, he added. Jordan's Meteorology Department said it had no clues to the incident. "It was reported in various places at various times, but our equipment cannot monitor such a phenomenon because it is not meteorological but astronomical," said a department source.
Meanwhile, UFO activity in neighboring Israel has been making news in that country for many week. Mid-September saw another flurry of sightings and at least one widely reported incident of possible UFO abduction involving an elderly man.
A story on the AP newswire dated September 21 quoted a headline in the Israeli daily Maariv which read, "The Great Invasion." The Maariv story listed 16 examples of UFO sightings in the past three months.
In the pre-dawn hours of September 17, Maariv said, Tel Aviv's police switchboard received dozens of calls from people who said they saw a glowing object doing loops over the suburb of Ramat Aviv. Hundreds of witnesses reportedly stopped along a major highway to stare at what looked to them like an alien spacecraft. Police spokesman Gadi Doron said officers reported that they also saw a strange light in the night sky.
More sensational still was the story told by a 62-year-old Israeli man who said he was abducted by aliens. His story made headlines in Maariv and was carried on radio and television news not only in Israel but also in the United States.
Mr. Yuri Isakov, (or Sakhov), a retired cook from Nazrat Elite, claimed that he was abducted on the evening of September 14, 1996. He declared that he doesn't care if anyone believes his story or not, adding that he was extremely scared by what happened and that he hoped it will never happen again.
Isakov said he had left his home that evening simply to check the mail box. Suddenly he saw a "huge round spacecraft" hovering overhead. After a minute or so he felt that he was "pulled by his hair" upwards and the next moment he found himself inside the spacecraft, surrounded by "tens of dwarf robotlike extraterrestrials." He said they had big eyes, big head and no nose, stood approximately three feet high and spoke a "strange language" like "shreiking" or "radio static."
Isakov said he sat among them in a state of shock for about an hour until three other creatures appeared. He said these three had bigger heads with almond shaped eyes, and three long fingers on each hand. The newcomers apparently gave some orders to the smaller creatures, whereupon one of those approached Mr. Isakov and "spit" on him some sort of "yellow powder." From that moment on he doesn't remember anything until he "woke up" on the courtyard of the local school.
He managed to reach the local police station where he told his story, claiming that he was "molested by extraterrestrials." At that time he was covered by a yellow-greenish dust on the upper part of his body, and also had needlelike punctures on one of his forearms and behind one ear. He was feeling a "burning sensation" on his face, due to the yellow dust.
The marks and dust were confirmed by the Director of the Emergency Room of the State Hospital in the region, as reported on the evening news on Israel's Channel 2 National Television. The doctor added also that the witness was examined and cleared by a psychiatrist.
About 1 cc of the yellow powder was retrieved, and samples were sent for analysis to the Israeli Police Central Labs.
Isakov's story made headlines a second time that week when the lab analysis reportedly found the yellow powder to be different from any soil found in the area.
Despite the widespread interest in the recent UFO activity, many skeptics said the stories probably had down-to-earth explanations. The Associated Press quoted several Israeli sources who believe the recent sightings can be explained in part by the invasion of U.S. pop culture, particularly the film Independence Day, which is a huge hit in Israel, as well as popular TV programs such as X-Files.
"I strongly believe that what we have now is hysterical behavior," said Ariel Cohen, an atmospheric physicist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Cohen said analysis of video footage of alleged UFO sightings suggested cameramen had adjusted the focus to make subjects seem unnatural. Others noted that Israel's airspace is known to host a secretive -- but earthly -- air force.
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, a psychology professor at Haifa University, suggested a deeper but still terrestrial explanation. Israelis live under a constant perceived military threat from their Arab neighbors, he noted, and are particularly susceptible to quasi-religious fantasies that send the message "you are not alone."
"Israelis consider themselves to be very cynical and hardened," Beit-Hallahmi said. "The Israelis are actually the greatest suckers in the world."
A recent television survey suggested nearly half of all Israelis believe in extraterrestrials. True believers are convinced dramatic events are at hand.
Skepticism notwithstanding, questions still linger over the alleged abduction of Yuri Isakov. Analysis of the yellow dust removed from his clothes puzzled the scientists. The dust contained 55 percent aluminum and was different from area soil.
Michael Kobi, marketing manager at the lab that examined the dust, said samples were sent to NASA, the U.S. space agency. Kobi said its unusual composition suggested the UFO sightings could not be easily dismissed.
"If you combine all the incidents together, there might be something there," he said.
Original file name: .CNI - UFOs over Middle East
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