Israel is holding its largest-ever air force exercise this week with the participation of several countries including the United Arab Emirates, with whom it normalized relations last year.
The chief of Israeli air force operations, Amir Lazar, told reporters at the Ovda airbase the drills "don't focus on Iran." Yet, army officials have remarked that Iran remains Israel's top strategic threat—at the center of its military planning.
Israel has held the "Blue Flag" exercises every two years since 2013 in the Negev desert to synchronize different types of aircraft manned by different countries to contest armed drones and other threats.
Lazar said this year's drills are the largest ever held in Israel, with more than 70 fighter jets and some 1,500 personnel participating.
Other nations participating are France, the United States and Germany and the United Kingdom, whose aircraft flew over Israeli territory for the first time since the Jewish state's creation in 1948.
The Emirate's air force chief will be inspecting the drills even if its countries planes are not flying.
Lazar said the visit, set for Tuesday, was "very significant" as "someday" the nations participating in the drill would be "working together" to counter the Iranian threat.
Through deals brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump, Israel normalized ties in 2020 with several Arab countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco.
On Sunday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei condemned the normalization, saying those countries had "sinned" and should reverse such moves.
In a speech marking a public holiday honoring the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Khamenei said: "It is an act against Islamic unity; they must return from this path and make up for this big mistake."
In addition to Iran's nuclear program, Israel has expressed public concern over what it claims is Tehran's dispatching of its programs to allies across the Middle East, including in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
Iran and Israel have exchanged sharp rhetoric recently against the backdrop of efforts to renew talks to revive a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.