JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli fighter jets and their pilots participated in a military parade in Croatia celebrating a victory in a 1995 battle against Serbia.
Israel’s participation in a parade celebrating the Operation Storm battle, which left hundreds of Serbs dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes, raised the ire of Serbian officials, The Times of Israel reported Sunday.
“Serbia is deeply disappointed about the participation of Israeli pilots and fighter jets today, because for us Operation Storm in 1995 was a kind of pogrom,” the country’s ambassador to Israel, Milutin Stanojevic, told The Times of Israel on Sunday morning.
Stanojevic also told the Israeli news website that Israel’s participation in Croatia’s victory celebration “is not a friendly gesture toward Serbia.”
Three Israeli F-16s flew together with Croatian MiG-21s.
Israel is the first foreign country to actively participate in the annual parade, according to Stanojevic.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic compared Operation Storm to the policies of Nazi Germany in an address on Saturday afternoon, during a commemoration event in northern Serbia.
“The intent was the same. Hitler wanted a world without Jews; Croatia and its policy wanted a Croatia without Serbs,” Vucic said, the Associated Press reported.
In January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced plans to close a deal for the sale of about 30 Israeli F-16s to Croatia. The deal worth about a half-billion dollars is expected to be completed by 2020.