08:27 GMT +321 October 2018
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    An Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter plane performs at an air show during the graduation of new cadet pilots at Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on June 29, 2017

    Israel Pulls F-15s from Alaska War Games as Tensions Rise with Iran

    © AFP 2018 / JACK GUEZ
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    Israel’s air force cancelled the participation of its F-15 fighters in the Red Flag - Alaska multinational aerial combat exercises as the country faces rising tensions with Iran and Syria and mass protests by residents in Gaza. Instead, the fighter jets will remain at home, on high alert.

    Two Israeli F-15 fighter jets struck the T-4 airbase in Syria April 9, killing seven Iranians operating in the country on behalf of the government, the Russian Foreign Ministry said after the attack. The strike came in response to allegations that an explosive drone was sent into Israeli air space from the base, according to the Times of Israel

    After the attack on the base, Israel reportedly placed its F-15s on high alert in case Iran struck back. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has promised to respond to the attack. 

    "The Zionist entity will sooner or later receive the necessary response and will regret its misdeeds," Bahram Qasemi, a spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministry, said at an April 16 press conference.

    An IDF official who admitted that Israel had conducted the strike spoke with The New York Times, but the paper published a correction after speaking with an IDF spokesperson who said the official did not speak for the military.

    "It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people," the New York Times' original source stated.

    An IDF spokesman said other air force assets would still take part in the drills in the northernmost US state, such as aerial refuelers.

    Red Flag exercises are an advanced aerial combat training exercise hosted at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base and at the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. This will be Israel's first time participating in Red Flag — Alaska, which is arranged a few times a year and allows other nations to drill in snowy terrain and cold weather — a rare opportunity for some US partners like Israel. The country has taken part in other Red Flag drills.

    Reportedly, Israel had intended to send up to a dozen F-15s to the event. IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Kitsana Dounglomchan would not give details about how Israel's involvement in the drills will play out instead.

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