Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 10:04 UK

Crash grounds Israel helicopters

A security agent checks the crash scene of a Cobra helicopter near Afula, Israel, 10 September 2008
Investigators are trying to establish what caused the crash

The Israeli military has grounded its fleet of Cobra helicopters as it investigates a crash that killed two crew members on a training mission.

Wednesday's crash near the northern town of Afula was the first of its kind since the war in Lebanon two years ago.

The craft crashed about 10 minutes after take-off while on a routine training flight with another helicopter, Israel's military said.

Witnesses reported the helicopter exploded when it hit the ground.

The two attack helicopters were flying in formation near the Jordanian border at around 1900 (1600 GMT) when the crash happened, Israel's Channel 10 TV reported.

A military spokesman said there had been no collision between the helicopters.

Technical faults?

Local media reports suggested investigators were now looking for technical faults after a witness said he had seen the stricken helicopter lose a rotor before hitting the ground.

Israel's last crash involving Cobras was near the Lebanese border in July 2006, when an officer was killed after two helicopters collided during the month-long conflict with Hezbollah.

Israel's Air Force has been using Cobras, many of which were manufactured in the US, since the 1970s.

In a separate development, Israeli media reported the US had refused to give Israel military aid including "bunker-buster" bombs and refuelling planes out of concerns it might launch attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities.

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