Intimidation by air show

Yesterday, the Lebanese were treated to an air show of sorts:

First there were two planes:

Then four:

Flying low over civilian neighborhoods:

Criss-crossing:

Shooting up:

Barreling down:

Looping endlessly over Beirut and its suburbs:

No this was not the Blue Angels– the kind of show you might to take your kids to see. This is the type of show that actually comes to you, courtesy of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). 

It’s more of a nightmare air show, where the pilots zooming overhead are not performing, but engaged in real combat, viewing you sitting in your car as a potential target.

But Lebanese drivers kept chugging along, paying little attention to the F-16 jets steadily diving toward them:

Not even Katie Perry batted an eye:

The IAF has flown hundreds if not thousands of sorties over Lebanon in recent decades–either for reconnaissance, missile raids or just plain intimidation. (Here, people call the latter state-sponsored terrorism.)

With no real air force to speak of, Lebanon can’t do much to police its own skies and thus the Lebanese have grown apathetic and somewhat desensitized to the constant threat of war literally looming above them.

I shot these images on my way to an 11AM meeting with an eye trained on the dashboard clock, hoping my IAF paparazzi moment wouldn’t make me late to work. Other drivers barely seemed to notice what was going on.

When I arrived, a secretary remarked jokingly: “I guess they missed us,” in a reference to the 2006 war, when IAF pilots dropped over a million cluster bombs across the country. “Maybe they have come to bring us an early Christmas present,” she added, half-smiling.

Having grown up with skies full of streaks, I too have become accustomed to the IAF’s near constant presence overhead.

But there is no getting used to those tiny red dots that sometimes appear below their tails, throwing up black columns of smoke seconds later when they collide into the earth and fill the sky with an earth shattering rumble.

Fortunately, there was none of that today, just one hell of a show–of force.

All this comes amid a series of curious events. Just before the IAF jets entered Lebanese airspace on Monday morning, a rocket was fired at a Lebanese village by an unknown assailant. And over the last two weeks, Israel exchanged fire with an unknown group on the border, while a United Nations convoy was hit in an unexplained bomb attack. Meanwhile Hezbollah claims it is routing CIA spies in Beirut by the dozen.

Curious times under the restless Lebanese skies…

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