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Israeli planes practice long-range missions

Oct. 11, 2013 3:16 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 14, 2013 12:27 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli warplanes this week practiced long-range missions including mid-air refueling in what local media said was a signal to arch-foe Iran.

The Israeli air force on Thursday posted pictures and video of the exercise on its website, without saying where or when it took place.

But the accompanying text gave what the online version of Haaretz daily called "the heaviest of hints about the goal of the exercise... a possible attack on Iran."

Haaretz said the drill took place with the Greek air force.

Israel says that until Iran verifiably halts what Israel and its US ally say is a covert nuclear arms program, all options remain on the table, including a military strike.

"When one speaks of 'all options on the table' it can be understood that one is speaking about the military option," the air force web site said Thursday.

"The air force, the long arm of the Israel Defense Forces, is responsible for carrying out that option."

It quoted an officer who took part in the exercise as saying there were special challenges in planning and executing flights "far from home" citing "weather conditions and unfamiliar ground along with possible threats along the way."

It went on, however, to say that the latest exercise was "no different to exercises carried out in recent years."

Israeli, Greek and US warships staged a two-week Mediterranean naval exercise in March.

For several years, Israel and the United States carried out military maneuvers with Turkey, but in September 2011 Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador and suspended military cooperation with the state.

Once-warm ties reached a low point after Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla in the Mediterranean in May 2010, killing nine Turks on board.

Relations with traditionally pro-Arab Greece have been warming in the meantime, with Israel joining it in naval and air exercises.
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