Panic in Tel Aviv as Israeli military jet fly overhead during Syria tensions and threats of ‘razing’ by Iran

The warplanes were rehearsing for an upcoming air show, but no prior announcement was made to the public, which is on edge because of rising tensions over Syria; the same day, Iran threatened to “raze” the city to the ground

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 4:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 5:16am

Israeli police emergency lines lit up on Thursday after warplanes roared over the Tel Aviv coast, dropping anti-missile flares and performing aerobatics at a time of tension along the border with Syria.

It was just a rehearsal – practice flights are held every year – for Israel’s upcoming Independence Day celebration, but no prior announcement was made.

“Many calls were received from worried citizens about noise from a squadron of planes in the Tel Aviv area,” police said in statement. “We would like to make clear they were training for the Independence Day aerial display. There’s no emergency.”

The military later issued a statement apologising for the scare, and it listed locations and times of further rehearsals over the next few days ahead of the annual display, when onlookers will cram the Tel Aviv beachfront.

The panic came the same day that a senior Iranian official warned that his country could “raze” Tel Aviv to the ground if provoked, following a similar warning to Tehran by Israel’s prime minister.

Ali Shirazi, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying Iran is capable of destroying Israel. He said, “If you provide an excuse for Iran, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be razed to the ground.”

At a Holocaust memorial ceremony Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran not to “test Israel’s resolve.”

Iran has repeatedly predicted Israel’s demise, and supports armed groups pledged to its destruction.

Netanyahu says Iran wants Lebanon to be ‘giant missile site’

Netanyahu has said Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, especially along the border. Iran has sent troops and allied militiamen to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump warned Russia of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack, and Israel held top-level security consultations over concerns it might be a target for Syrian or Iranian retaliation.

Trump said on Thursday that a possible strike against Syria “could be very soon or not so soon at all”.

Despite the tensions, the commander of Israel’s armed forces, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, flew to Poland on Thursday morning to take part in Holocaust Remembrance Day events.

The Israeli military tweeted a video of him boarding a plane but did not immediately say when he was expected to return. A source in the delegation, however, said that Eizenkot would be back by nightfall.

In Israel, sirens blared for two minutes during the morning to mark the remembrance day, bringing traffic to a standstill as motorists and pedestrians stood to honour the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Civil defence authorities issued the customary notice beforehand that in the event of a real emergency, the sirens would sound in a rising and falling, rather than a constant, tone.