06:47 GMT13 August 2020
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    Israel was one of the first countries to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth-generation fighter plane from the US, receiving its first nine planes in late 2017, and reporting their use in combat in Syria in May 2018. Israel plans to buy at least 50 F-35s in total.

    An Israeli Air Force pilot was grounded Wednesday after startling residents of the northern port city of Haifa and the Jezreel Valley by using his F-35 to cause sonic booms, The Times of Israel reported.

    The incidents reportedly took place at about 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday night, with the loud explosion-like sounds of the sonic booms, caused by the plane’s rapid acceleration to the speed of sound, reportedly prompting some residents to fear that the country was under attack or that some kind of emergency had occurred.

    Some residents reportedly took to social media to ask what happened, with the Israel Defence Forces calming fears by explaining that the noise was caused by “a pilot exceeding the speed limits for a flight during a training session of fighter jets in the area, with the pilot grounded over the incident.

    Situated about 75 km from the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights, and just 30 km south of the border with Lebanon, Haifa residents have faced heightened security concerns in recent years amid Tel Aviv’s conflicts with Damascus and the Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah. In 2006, during a short-lived conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, nearly 100 rockets hit the city, killing 11 civilians and prompting nearly half of its population to temporarily flee.

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