Israeli Air Force F15 planes fly during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, December 27, 2017..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Ahead of expected violence along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Friday, the Israeli Air Force concluded a week-long exercise on Thursday - which included bombing raids in Gaza - in preparation for war in the North and South.
The aerial drill included hundreds of fighter jets and attack helicopters which participated in daytime and nighttime maneuvers. The IDF released footage from the drill a day before tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to converge on the Israeli-Gaza border as part of the Naksa Day protests. The Palestinians are reportedly preparing to launch hundreds of "terror kites" across the border. The kites, which carry incendiary devices, have already burned thousands of dunams of agriculture land in Israel.
On Thursday, forest fires were reported near Be’eri. Thousands of dunams of agriculture land have already been burned by the kites which carry incendiary devices into Israel.
According to the IDF spokesperson’s unit, the IAF drill “focused on increasing readiness” in a variety of scenarios as well as responding to frequent attacks within a short period of time and providing air support to ground forces.
In addition to active personnel, a number of reservists from a variety of units participated in the exercise as well as technical staff.
IAF officers said that the drills included bombing large numbers of targets in short intervals.
“We met all the objectives we set for ourselves, in full coordination with the Southern Command and with the air force’s coordination and control organizations,” commander of the 105th Squadron said after the drill. “My squadron today returned from a mission in Gaza. We have successfully met all these challenges and we are ready for any threat.”
Meanwhile Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mounted an impassioned defense of Israel’s conduct against protesters on the Israel-Gaza border in recent weeks, arguing that no country in the world has developed any non-lethal alternative against protesters seeking fatalities.
“We tried tear gas, all sorts of other devices, and none have worked against this type of tactic,” Netanyahu told a meeting of the Policy Exchange think tank in London on the final morning of a three-day European tour.
“Hamas’s goal was to have as many casualties, our goal was to minimize casualties and avoid fatalities,” explained Netanyahu, stating that he had instructed technological experts to develop a new method of riot dispersal that would avoid loss of life.
“When I talk with European leaders, I always say ‘What would you do?’ The last thing we want is any violence, or casualties. No country in the world [has offered an alternative], I spoke to every country you can imagine.”
Netanyahu condemned Hamas’s “unconscionable” tactics at the border protests during its eight-week “March of Return” campaign, which saw up to 8,700 Palestinians wounded and around 100 killed during violent clashes with the IDF.
The Israeli leader said he would be “the first one to use” any non-lethal solution to the violent protests on the Gaza border should a country prove successful in developing such a method, but emphasized that “any country would stop a direct assault on the lives of their civilians.”