After 2018 panic, IDF publishes Independence Day flyby practice schedule

Fighter jets, helicopters to zoom over Israeli cities in the coming days ahead of next week’s festivities

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

People watch as an Israeli acrobatic team fly over during Israel's 70th Independence Day celebrations, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
People watch as an Israeli acrobatic team fly over during Israel's 70th Independence Day celebrations, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday said its fighter aircraft would be flying over cities and towns throughout the country in the coming days to prepare for next week’s annual Independence Day flyover, after last year’s unannounced practice flights over Tel Aviv frightened residents.

Independence Day this year begins the night of May 8, after the country ends its Memorial Day commemorations, and the festivities — including the annual flyby — continue until the following evening.

The aerial demonstration, known in Hebrew as the matas, features fighter jets, transport planes, acrobatic aircraft, and helicopters flying past major Israeli cities and towns to delight local residents with a show of military power.

The practice flights for the flyby were scheduled to begin on Monday morning, from 9:50 to 11:30 a.m., with flybys over the coast.

They are to be followed by flights over the desert city of Beersheba on Monday afternoon, from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m., and Tuesday morning, from 8:15 to 9 a.m., the military said.

Also on Monday, the IDF will test the siren system in the Mount Herzl military cemetery ahead of the Memorial Day ceremonies planned for the site next week on Wednesday. In the case of an actual emergency, the siren will sound twice, the army said.

In the morning hours of Wednesday, the practice runs are set to return to the coast, the IDF said.

Two C-130J transport planes fly past a Sa’ar 5-class corvette off the Tel Aviv coast for Israel’s 70th Independence Day on April 19, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Next Sunday, May 5, morning flights are scheduled over Kibbutz Gal’ed in northern Israel, followed the next day by flybys over Haifa, the Ramat David airbase, Gal’ed, Tel Aviv and the President’s Residence in Jerusalem from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the military said.

The final set of practice flights are set to take place on the morning of Tuesday, May 7, in Tel Aviv and above the President’s Residence.

Last year’s preparations sparked a scare in central Israel as residents saw and heard multiple fighter jets flying overhead with no warning, amid a period of heightened security tensions, prompting a flood of phone calls to the Tel Aviv police hotline from concerned residents.

Residents appeared to be more anxious than in previous years, likely owing to tensions with Syria, as days before, Israel had allegedly conducted an airstrike on an Iran-controlled airbase in Syria, prompting threats of retaliation from both Damascus and Tehran.

Following the minor panic, the military released an official apology and announced its plans for future practice flights.

“The army is sorry for the panic that was caused,” the IDF said in a statement at the time.

“These dry runs take place as part of the [air] force’s desire to ensure a safe, high quality, and respectful flyover for the 70th Independence Day,” the army said.

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