Breaking News -- Israel
Seven Nations to Join Israel in Biggest Air Drill in Country’s
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is set to host one of the most complex air exercises ever later this year, featuring 100 aircraft and hundreds of airmen.
India, Greece, Poland, France, Italy, the US and Germany will participate in the two-week Blue Flag air exercises, held every other year.
"It will be a massive exercise; the biggest ever for the IAF," Defense News quoted IAF International Affairs Chief Lt. Col. Richard Hecht saying. "Seven nations plus Israel … Everybody wants to engage and cooperate with the IAF. It’s a privilege."
Representatives from 40 other nations are set to act as observers in this year’s Blue Flag and four of the seven participants will be taking part in the exercises for the first time.
The original drill was held in 2013, and was continued as a quadrilateral exercise in 2015 with Greece, Poland and the US.
"People are seeing there’s a lot to learn from Israel," Hecht remarked. "In our tiny airspace and in the environment around us, things are so intense. The Russians are here. … Many of the world’s air forces are passing through here on their way to operations in Syria and elsewhere in the region. So we provide a sort of battle lab in which forces can hone a spectrum of skills needed to combat growing threats."
Israel’s Blue Flag is not a combat drill like the US Air Force’s Red Flag drill, pitting flying forces against each other, but is in place to help foster cooperation and satisfy different requirements for the forces.
"It’s not a competitive event. It’s about partnerships, and we tailor parts of the drill to fit each nation’s requirements … And it's not only the exercise itself but the buildup to the exercise where you have all these nations planning together, getting to know one another, building relationships and talking about how we fight," Hecht clarified.
Planning conferences for the event are scheduled throughout the year, with the first having taken place in February.
According to Hecht this gives aircrews, rank and file airmen and lower level officers the opportunity to engage the kind of cooperation that usually only higher-ranking officers have access to.
"It’s a difference when generals meet generals to discuss cooperation and when large numbers of fighting forces actually come together to plan and train together," he said. "When that happens, it’s a different ballgame."
The participants will conduct hundreds of sorties in Israeli airspace, practicing ground attacks on moving and stationary targets, maneuvering from shoulder-launched missiles, surface-to-air batteries as well as practicing air-to-air battles.
Netanyahu to Putin: Israeli airstrikes in Syria will continue
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israeli forces will continue airstrikes in Syria if they deem it necessary.
“If there is feasibility from an intelligence and military standpoint – we attack and so it will continue,” Netanyahu said during a visit to China, adding that he had informed Putin of Israel’s intentions.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli PM also dismissed reports that Russia was insisting that Israel cease its military operations on Syrian territory.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry says that Moscow is relying on Israel keeping in line with agreements reached during Netanyahu’s state visit to Russia earlier this month, when he held extended discussions on Syria with President Vladimir Putin.
“We will judge not by their statements, but by their actions, to what extent our Israeli partners are sticking to these agreements,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.
On Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad told visiting Russian MPs that he is counting on Russia to prevent further Israeli attacks on Syrian soil and to help Damascus avoid a full-blown conflict with Tel Aviv.
The same day, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Gary Koren, to demand explanations for the airstrikes Israel conducted near the Syrian city of Palmyra on Friday morning. Israeli Defence Force (IDF) warplanes hit several targets near Palmyra, allegedly destroying advanced arms provided to the Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah.
Syria’s air defense force fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli planes as they were returning to base. Syrian media reported that one plane was downed, while Israel denied any losses.
Israel also said that it shot down one of the interceptor missiles with its Arrow long-range SAMs, which saw the first-ever use of the system in battle.
After the incident, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened that “next time, if the Syrian aerial defense apparatus acts against our planes, we will destroy it.”
READ MORE: Syria claims Israeli jet shot down after strike near Palmyra, IDF says all aircraft undamaged
In January, Damascus accused Tel Aviv of bombing the Mezzeh military airport west of the country’s capital. The airport was rocked by multiple explosions, with ambulances rushing to the scene.
The IDF has violated Syrian air space on a number of occasions, even before the conflict broke out in the country back in 2011.
Possibly the most infamous incident occurred in 2007 when an alleged Israeli raid destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor governorate.
Israeli Cybercrime Police Arrest Israeli-American Teen for 'Hundreds' of Bomb Threats Against Jewish Centers Worldwide
Yaniv Kubovich - Haaretz
Arrest of Jewish teen partly based on FBI information ■ Bitcoin account discovered on computer, leading to suspicions payment involved in some calls ■ Defense attorney: Medical condition may have affected teen's cognitive functioning.
A 19-year-old Jewish resident of Israel with both American and Israeli citizenship is suspected of being behind a host of fake bomb threats directed at Jewish institutions and other targets worldwide.
The cybercrimes unit of the Israel Police made the arrest on Thursday after receiving intelligence from the FBI and other foreign agencies. Police seized computers and other items investigators say helped the suspect evade detection.
The suspect’s father was also arrested, and a judge ordered both of them to remain in custody for eight additional days.
The suspect has lived in Israel many years. The army refused to draft him after finding him unfit for service. The suspect's motive is unknown, but police accuse him of hundreds of incidents involving threats to institutions around the world, including Israel, over a period of two or three years.
Some five computers were confiscated as well as other equipment, including antennas he used to access other people's networks and to commit the alleged crimes undetected. This initially threw off the police and it led them to question others whose networks were used. Eventually, the police created a profile of the suspect and the technology to find him. Police say that he attempted to grab the gun of an officer who came to his home to arrest him.
The suspect is not cooperating with police and has refused to grant permission to have his computers searched.
Upon searching his computer, a bitcoin account was discovered, and it’s being examined whether the suspect received payment for some of the calls he allegedly made.
He is said to have been home-schooled by his parents and never to have been educated outside the home.
Police are accusing the suspect of extortion through threats and of false reporting spreading panic. The incidents include alleged calls placed to shopping malls, airports and various Jewish institutions. Investigators are also attempting to determine if the suspect received any money in connection with of the threats attributed to him.
The police also detained his father for questioning.
Attorney Galit Bash, who represents the suspect, said that "this is a young man without a criminal record who from a young age suffers from severe medical problems. There is concern that his medical condition affects his cognitive functioning.
"Therefore, we asked the court to order that the young man be referred for a medical examination. The court accepted our claims and instructed the police to examine the young man's medical condition."
The suspect was brought before Judge Amit Michles, who said that "I believe there is reasonable suspicion to link the suspect to actions attributed to him.
"The main thing is that a reasonable suspicion already exists at this stage that convincingly links the suspect to the calls that have been attributed to him, known as 'swats,' to different institutions around the world, some of which have led to panic."
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday the arrest in Israel reflected the government's determination not to tolerate hate crimes.
"The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs," Sessions said in a statement. "I commend the FBI and Israeli National Police for their outstanding work on this case."
JCC Association of North America president and CEO Doron Krakow also responded to the developments.
“On behalf of the JCC Association of North America and JCCs across the continent, we are gratified by the progress in this investigation, and applaud the commitment and leadership of the FBI and other federal agencies, Israeli law enforcement, and local law enforcement across the United States and Canada.
“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all – is reportedly Jewish," he said.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also responded to the arrest.
"While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism. These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert."
Last month, St. Louis native Juan Thompson, a former reporter, was arrested for his role in a number of bomb threats against Jewish centers, allegedly carried out as part of an ongoing attempt to shame his former girlfriend.
The first incident attributed to the Israeli suspect is a bomb threat that a Jewish institution in New Zealand received in 2016. Police in New Zealand identified the IP address as originating from Israel. A similar incident occurred in Australia, and Israel was also identified as the source.
The Israel Police initially struggled to locate the suspect but then received several reports of threats from 16 Jewish centers in nine U.S. states – Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and North Carolina. The FBI began investigating. Delta Airlines also received a threat about a bomb on one of its planes, causing it to halt flights to check their aircraft and forcing a plane already in the air to land.
The FBI handed over the information to the Israel Police after finding that these threats too had originated from Israel. Using innovative technology, the police were able to identify the suspect's home.
The Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court is expected to extend his custody on Thursday.
An audio of one of the calls was obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in which the caller stated:
"It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag (inaudible). In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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