Israeli F-15 fighter jets escorted two American B-52 bombers through Israeli airspace on Sunday to demonstrate the US in a new act of power against Iran – with an Israeli element – amid mounting tensions in the region.
In the past few weeks, Iranian militias have carried out several attacks on American military bases in Iraq, including one last week in which an American contractor was killed and an attack on an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman that Israel has accused Tehran of. Late last month, the US responded to the rocket strikes on its bases with an air strike against an Iranian-affiliated militia in Syria, in which at least one member was killed.
The B-52 heavy bomber flyby through the region on Sunday was at least the seventh such maneuver in the past six months. However, it was the first time that Israeli planes were photographed accompanied by the US bomber.
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Each B-52 was accompanied by four Israeli F-15 jets.
According to the US military, the patrol flight was intended to “deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the US military’s commitment to security in the region.”
In addition to the Israeli F-15s, aircraft from Saudi Arabia and Qatar escorted the B-52s as they flew through their respective airspaces.
“This flight is further evidence of the strategic cooperation with American forces, which is a cornerstone of maintaining the security of the airspace of the State of Israel and the Middle East,” said a statement from the Israel Defense Forces.
In recent months, Tehran has sought to improve its negotiating position with the United States on the issue of its nuclear program by increasing tensions in the region as the two countries attempted to negotiate a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Israeli F-15 fighter planes escort an American B-52 bomber through Israeli airspace on March 7, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
In addition, Iran has been threatening retaliation against Israel for months for the assassination of its chief nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, widely attributed to an Israeli Mossad operation. A bomb attack near the Israeli embassy in India last month, as well as the mine attack on an Israeli cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman last week, were both attributed to Iran by Israel.
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