Israeli Air Force Withdraws Warplanes From Alaska Exercise Amid Tensions in North

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An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet releases flares during an aerial demonstration in southern Israel, December 29, 2016
An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet releases flares during an aerial demonstration in southern Israel, December 29, 2016Credit: \ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The Israeli air force has cancelled the participation of its F-15 planes in a joint exercise with the U.S. air force due to rising tensions in the north of Israel. The air force may send some representatives, but no planes will participate.

The “Red Flag” exercise is scheduled to be held in Alaska, along with U.S. warplanes. The exercise is to be a unique one, meant to practice operating in scenarios of snow, ice and harsh weather. This is the first time the air force was to have participated in the Red Flag exercises in Alaska. 

On Tuesday, a commander in the Syrian army told Reuters that the action of aerial defense systems in Syria the previous night was the result of a cyberattack by the U.S. and Israel. The commander, who remained anonymous, said that this was an “electronic attack” on Syrian radar systems. He said that this conclusion was reached by Russian experts who had investigated the issue.

With the activation of these systems, the official Syrian news agency reported they had intercepted missiles launched at the al-Shayrat air base near Homs. Following the publication of these reports, the Pentagon announced there had been no U.S. army activity in the area.

Last week Russia and Syria announced that Israel had attacked the Syrian T4 air base near Homs. The Russian army announcement said that two Israeli air force jets had fired eight missiles at the base from Lebanese air space. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that the attack on the Syrian base was a dangerous development. Israel did not respond to these claims.

However, an IDF official has reportedly admitted to the strike before a New York Times columnist, saying, "It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.” The New York Times has since published a correction, with the IDF spokesperson saying the official did not speak on its behalf.

Regarding the "Red Flag" exercise, IDF spokesperson said: “Israel’s first participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska will take place as planned in May. According with assessments of the situation the air force has decided to tailor the participation of its planes.”