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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Israeli TV airs photo of F-35 stealth fighter jet flying over Beirut

The leak was an apparent warning shot to Iranian proxy Hezbollah

In this Dec. 29, 2016 file photo, an Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheba, Israel. Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, the head of Israel’s air force said Tuesday, May 22, 2018, that it used the next-generation F-35 fighter jet for the first time during a recent mission. AP Photo / Ariel Schalit
In this Dec. 29, 2016 file photo, an Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheba, Israel. Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, the head of Israel’s air force said Tuesday, May 22, 2018, that it used the next-generation F-35 fighter jet for the first time during a recent mission. AP Photo / Ariel Schalit

Israeli television has shown an apparent leaked image of a F-35 stealth fighter flying over Beirut, in what appeared to be a warning shot to Iran’s Shiite proxy group Hezbollah.

The photograph shows Beirut’s coastline and its Rafik Hariri International Airport. The date of the image remains unclear but it was shown on Tuesday at a conference of visiting foreign commanders in Israel by Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin.

The image was leaked to Israel’s Hadashot television station and aired on Wednesday night.

Its publication came after Mr Norkin revealed that the Israeli air force had become the first country to use the F-35 stealth fighter in combat.

"The Adir aircraft are already operational and flying combat missions," he said at the conference in central Israel, using the plane's Hebrew name.

"In fact, we have performed the first operational F-35 strike in the world".

"We attacked twice in the Middle East using the F-35 - we are the first in the world to do so," he said in remarks quoted by the air force's website.

He said that the jets had been used in Syria, where the Israeli military targeted sites believed to be used by Iran, which has established a significant presence in the country in support of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Hezbollah has also sent fighters to support Al Assad.

"Over the past weeks, we understood that Iran was transporting long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, among which are 'Uragan' missile launchers which we attacked, just north of Damascus," the commander said.

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He then went on to describe the series of events on May 9 and 10.

"The Iranians fired 32 rockets. We intercepted 4 of them and the rest fell outside Israeli territory," Mr Norkin continued.

"Afterwards, we attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria".

Israel has nine of the fighters in operation and has agreed to buy a total of 50 of the US stealth bombers. They are estimated to cost $100 million (Dh 367 million) each.

“You know that we just won the Eurovision with the song ‘Toy.’ Well, the F-35 is not a toy,” he said, referring to the lyrics of Israel’s winning song at the Eurovision song contest earlier this month, sung by Netta Barzilai.