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Israel Holds Air Force Drill with UAE Visit

Israel Holds Air Force Drill with UAE Visit

Wednesday, 27 October, 2021 - 05:30
Israeli air force pilots walk to their F-16 fighters during the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Chief of Israeli Air Force operations Amir Lazar has said that Israel’s largest-ever air force exercise, which kicked off Tuesday “doesn’t focus on Iran.”

Lazar said Tehran remains Israel’s top strategic threat and at the center of much of its military planning. However, he said the drills are part of the Blue Flag exercises, which his country hosts every two years since 2013 in the Negev desert.

The fifth in its series, this year’s exercise is taking part with the participation of air forces from France, the United States and Germany, as well as Britain, and in the presence of the chief of the UAE air force, General Ibrahim Nasser Mohamed Al Alawi.

Israel normalized ties last year with several Arab countries, including the UAE.

Al Alawi arrived in Israel on Monday and met with head of the Israeli military aviation, General Amikam Norkin.

Lazar told reporters at the southern Ovda airbase that with more than 70 fighter jets — including Mirage 2000s, Rafales and F-16s — and some 1,500 personnel participating, the drills are the largest-ever held in Israel.

While UAE aircraft are not flying in the drills, Lazar said the visit from the country's air force chief was "very significant."

Commenting on the visit of the UAE official, Norkin said: “This is a truly historic day with tremendous significance for the future of cooperation between our air forces.”

Although Lazar said the exercises do not focus on Iran, security sources told the press that through the drills “Israel has sought to sound the alarm over a fleet of drones it claims Tehran is dispatching to its proxies across the Middle East, including in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said in a statement that it launched on Tuesday a military exercise near the Gaza Strip to improve the mobilization of troops.

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