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Saudis warn will intercept Israeli jets

Aug. 9, 2012 at 6:53 AM   |   Comments

JERUSALEM, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia warned it will intercept Israeli fighter jets that enter its airspace en route to an attack on Iran, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth says.

The warning was relayed via Washington and raised by top U.S. administration officials who recently visited Jerusalem.

The Hebrew language daily reported Thursday sources in Jerusalem said it appeared the Obama administration was "leveraging the Saudi threat in an attempt to dissuade Israel from launching a unilateral offensive on Iran's nuclear facilities," the newspaper said.

Other sources said they believe Riyadh would permit Israeli jets to enter its airspace if Israel coordinates the military strike with Washington and doesn't carry out a military operation unilaterally.

In the event of a military strike on Iran's nuclear sites, Israel has three route options: a northern route, which requires flying over Turkey and Syria; a southern route over Saudi Arabia; or a central route over Jordan and Iraq.

Due to the deteriorated relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara since a 2010 Israeli commando attack in which nine activists on the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara, which sought to break the Gaza blockade, were killed, it is unlikely Turkey would permit Israeli fighter jets to enter its airspace, Yedioth Ahronoth said. However, there is a possibility Turkey would "turn a blind eye" because of commitments to its NATO partner, the United States, the newspaper said.

Concerning the next leg of the journey, which would require entering Syrian airspace, the Syrian air force is still operational but its capabilities are considered weak. However Syria's air defense systems are considered to be advanced, the newspaper said.

The option of entering Jordanian and Iraqi airspace is considered to be the preferred route for Israel, though it isn't clear whether Jordan would turn a "blind eye" to Israeli jets entering its airspace heading east, or whether it would consider such an act a threat to its sovereignty, which may jeopardize the peace treaty between the countries, Yedioth Ahronoth said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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