British plane almost hit by rocket near Egypt's Sharm al-Sheikh in August: Media

A British EasyJet plane taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Nov 6, 2015.
A British EasyJet plane taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Nov 6, 2015. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON (Reuters) - A British passenger jet came close to being hit by a rocket as it came in to land at Egypt's Sharm al-Sheikh in August, British media reported on Saturday (Oct 7), although the British UK government said it concluded the incident was not a deliberate attack.

The pilot of the Thomson flight from London to Egypt took evasive action after spotting the missile coming towards the plane as it flew to the Red Sea resort, the Daily Mail reported.

The rocket was believed to have come within 300m of the plane, an unnamed source told the paper.

Britain confirmed the incident had occurred, but played down its significance as investigators try to pin down the cause of a Russian passenger plane crash over Egypt's Sinai.

Western officials believe it was brought down by a bomb after taking off from Sharm al-Sheikh on Oct 31.

"We investigated the reported incident at the time and concluded that it was not a targeted attack and was likely to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by the Egyptian military in the area at the time," the Department for Transport said in a statement.

A government source also said the rocket was not thought to have come as close as the report suggested.

This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron halted flights to and from the Egyptian resort on concerns that the Russian jet had been downed by a bomb.

Flights resumed on Friday to bring home stranded tourists in the resort, where about 20,000 Britons were on holiday.

However, the operation descended into chaos on Friday when only eight of the 29 flights left Sharm al-Sheikh because Egypt said Britain's insistence that passengers returned without all their luggage meant the airport was unable to cope.

Meanwhile, nearly 80,000 Russians are currently vacationing in Egypt but there will be no emergency evacuation, with tourists set to return home when they want, an official told AFP.

"Nearly 80,000 tourists are in Egypt," Ms Irina Tyurina, a spokesman for the Russian Union of the Tourism Industry, told AFP after a government meeting.

"There will be no evacuation," she added.

Russia halted flights to Egypt on Friday amid growing fears that a Russian jet downed in Egypt last week was bombed. Empty planes are being sent to Egypt to bring Russian holidaymakers home, but they will be able to return at their own pace.

And Egypt's foreign minister said on Saturday that his country was not dismissing possible scenarios that led to the Russian passenger plane crash, but there was no "hypothesis" yet from a probe investigating the disaster.

Mr Sameh Shoukry told a press conference that foreign intelligence suggesting it was caused by a bomb that spurred several governments to impose restrictions on flights to Egypt "has not until now been provided to the Egyptian security services".