Multi-National Aerial Drill over Israel – Winds of Regional War?

The Israeli Air Force will be hosting massive, multi-national aerial maneuvers beginning this week and continuing until the end of October, the military spokesperson’s office in Tel Aviv announced on Thursday, October 14. The exercises will be run out of the Ovda air base, near Eilat.

Indian airmen stand at attention at the Israeli Air Forces’ Ovda air base, ahead of the Blue Flag exercise set to begin this week. (Photo: Israel Military Spokeperson’s Office)

Teams from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Greece and India will participate in the fifth biennial Blue Flag exercise. A variety of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft will take part in the drill, including the F-35, F-15, Eurofighter, Dassault Rafale and Dassault Mirage 2000.

According to the Israeli army, this will be the “largest and most advanced” Blue Flag exercise, which was first held in 2013. It will be the first time in the country’s history that Royal Air Force pilots will fly fighter jets over Israel, as well as the first time that Indian Air Force Mirage jets and French Air Force Dassault Rafale jets will fly over Israel. “During the exercises, the participants will simulate in-air battles and ground-to-air battles, and will practice dealing with the threat of advanced surface-to-air missiles and combat behind enemy lines,” the Israeli military spokesperson said.

More Israeli Attacks on Syria

A Russian general said on Thursday, October 14, that Syrian air defenses did not engage Israeli jets that reportedly carried out a strike in central Syria because there were two civilian airliners in the adjacent aerial space at the time. A Britain-based war monitor said the alleged Israeli airstrike in central Syria killed nine pro-government fighters, four of them Syrians and five of undetermined nationality.

Syrian Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit told the Sputnik news site that the strike was carried out by four Israeli F-16 jets. “The Syrian military leadership decided not to use air defense systems since at the time of the Israeli aviation attack, two civilian passenger aircraft were in the zone of destruction of the anti-aircraft systems,” Kulit said.

Russia has repeatedly accused Israel of using civilian aircraft as a shield against Syrian air defenses, amid lingering anger over a case in 2018, when the Syrian military shot down a Russian spy plane while responding to an Israeli strike over Syrian airspace. Syrian state news agency SANA had earlier quoted a military source as saying that the last previous attack on Wednesday, October 13, near the city of Palmyra had killed a soldier and wounded three others.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria, mostly targeting Syrian government troops, as well as allied Iranian and Lebanese forces.

Targeted Assassination of Syrian National in Golan Heights

On Saturday, October, 16, Israel reportedly carried out the targeted assassination of Midhat Saleh, a former member of the Syrian parliament who had previously served 12 years in Israeli prison, in the Golan Heights on Saturday. According to Syrian state media, the assassination reportedly took place in the Syrian village of Ein Tina, overlooking the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.