Israeli fighter pilots train in Germany in symbolic first

Israeli combat pilots and their German counterparts will on Tuesday honour Holocaust victims with a symbolic flyover of Dachau concentration camp, as they carry out their first joint military exercises in Germany.

Israeli fighter pilots train in Germany in symbolic first
Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz (r), Air Force Inspector, welcomes the Commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Amikam Norkin, at the Nörvenich Air Base.

A formation of fighter aircraft, including Israeli Air Force F-16s and Eurofighter jets from the German Luftwaffe, will also overfly the nearby Fürstenfeldbruck airbase to commemorate the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics that left 11 Israelis dead.

The aerial tributes will be the highlight of two weeks of manoeuvres that
will see Israeli air forces train on German soil for the first time.

READ ALSO: 'Linked by a unique relationship': What Merkel hopes to accomplish in her Israel visit

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is the only training mission the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is conducting abroad this year.

Luftwaffe chief Ingo Gerhartz in a statement called the joint exercise “a sign of our friendship today”.

He said it was also a reminder that Germany has an enduring responsibility “to fight anti-Semitism with the utmost consistency” because of its Nazi past.

'Very moving'

The IAF said the mission, which runs until August 28th, will give its pilots a chance to practise in unfamiliar surroundings and will include simulated dogfights, air-to-ground battles and missile threats.

Israeli pilots will also take part in aerial manoeuvres with Germany and other NATO members during the deployment.

Germany and Israel have stepped up their military cooperation in recent years, with the Luftwaffe taking part in joint exercises in the Israeli Negev desert in 2019.

But the landmark Israeli visit to Germany is heavy with history.

Gerhartz (r) welcomes Norkin at the Nörvenich Air Base. Photo: DPA

Tuesday's commemorations will start with a joint fly-past over the Fürstenfeldbruck airbase outside Munich where nine members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team were killed in a shootout after being taken hostage by Palestinian militants.

The gunmen had earlier already shot dead an Israeli coach and athlete at the Olympic Village.

They were murdered “by a common enemy of Israel and Germany: terror”, an Israeli air force officer who asked to be identified only as “Major T” told AFP.

The German and Israeli jets will then continue on to nearby Dachau where they will fly low over the Nazi death camp that was built in 1933 and served as a model for other concentration camps.

More than 40,000 Jews were killed at Dachau during World War II.

It will be “a very moving event for everyone”, said Major T, whose own grandfather was a Holocaust survivor.

The flyover will be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Dachau to be attended by IAF commander Amikam Norkin and his German counterpart Gerhartz, as well as German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the Israeli ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff.

An Israeli officer, the grandson of a Dachau survivor, will give a speech.

The homage comes as Germany grapples with an upsurge in anti-Semitic and far-right violence, 75 years after the defeat of the Nazi regime.

READ ALSO: Past 'evils' are returning, Germany and Israel warn at Holocaust event

In the eastern city of Halle last year, a neo-Nazi shot dead two people after trying but failing to storm a synagogue.

The attack prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to say Germany needed “to do
more” to protect Jewish people.

In June, Kramp-Karrenbauer ordered the partial dissolution of Germany's elite KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.

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Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street

A former Israeli soldier was attacked in the German capital Berlin, police said Saturday, with one or several unknown assailants spraying him with an irritant and throwing him to the ground.

Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street
Israeli soldiers on operation near the Gaza Strip. Photo: dpa | Ilia Yefimovich

The 29-year-old was wearing a top with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) logo when the attackers started harassing him on Friday about his religion, the police added, calling it “an anti-Semitic attack”.

Officers are seeking the assailants, who fled immediately after the attack, on suspicion of a politically-motivated crime.

Saturday is the second anniversary of an attack by a far-right gunman on a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle, who killed two in a rampage when he failed to break into the house of worship.

It was one of a string of incidents that led authorities to declare the far right and neo-Nazis Germany’s top security threat.

Also this week, a musician claimed he was turned away from a hotel in eastern city Leipzig for wearing a Star-of-David pendant.

While the allegations prompted a fierce response from a Jewish community unsettled by increasing anti-Semitic crimes, several investigations have been mounted into contradictory accounts of the incident.

In 2019, police recorded 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, an increase of 13 percent year-on-year.

“The threat is complex and comes from different directions” from jihadists to the far right, the federal government’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism Felix Klein said recently.