Report: Israel seeks removal of F-15 planes from Saudi air base
Israel wants Saudi Arabia to remove dozens of F-15 aircraft from the Tabouk air base, located in the northern part of the Kingdom, not far from the Israeli border, Israel's Army Radio reported Wednesday.
The United States sold the planes to Saudi Arabia several years ago, reportedly with the understanding that the planes would not be placed in Tabouk, so that they would not serve as a "threat" to Israel, the report said.
However, during the war in Iraq, the Saudis moved the planes to the northern part of the Kingdom, in order to distance them from Iraq, and now the Saudis are refusing to remove them.
According to the report, Israel has asked Washington several times to exert pressure on Riyadh to move the planes to distant air bases, due to Israeli security assessments that the current location endangers Israel.
Giora Rom, former Israeli attaché in Washington told Army Radio, "Throughout the Saudi Kingdom, Tabouk is the closest airport to Israel.
"And a combat squadron has been positioned there for decades. In the general outline of power relations between Israel and Syria, this air base (Tabouk) is the only one relevant to us".
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has denied the United States demanding the pullout of fighters from the Tabouk base.
On Thursday, Riyadh denied it was under US pressure to withdraw fighters deployed in the air base.
"Washington did not put pressure on us, and we would not tolerate pressure from anyone when it comes to sovereignty matters," Saudi Arabia's Assistant Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz told AFP.
"We will keep them there because they are deployed inside our territory," Prince Khaled said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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