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Israeli pilots say training for Syria, Lebanon threats

Israeli air force pilots are training daily to meet threats posed by instability in neighbouring Syria and Lebanon, pilots at a base in the north of the Jewish state said on Wednesday.

Daily drills include preparing to counter "the transfer of all kinds of weapons that could lead to terror attacks," Lieutenant Colonel N, who could not reveal his last name, told AFP on a rare visit by journalists to Ramat David air base.

Israel has carried out several air strikes inside Syria this year, which officials say were to preventing shipments of advanced weapons to Israel's arch-foe, the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

"The atmosphere is very tense," said N, who commands a squadron of F16 warplanes covering Israel's border with Lebanon and the armistice line between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria.

"It's not every day that a country the size of Syria, two minutes' (flight) from our base, goes through a civil war," he said.

N's deputy, Major L, said his squadron felt tensions after recent spillovers of Syria's conflict into the Golan, including Israeli patrols coming under fire from Syrian regime troops.

"These are more tense times, you can feel it," he said.

"We talk more about the possibility of a conflict. We talk more and train more now because of what's going on around us."