As rocket barrages assault southern Israel, Iran launched its own air operations Monday, in the form of massive air defense drills.

Velayat-4 maneuvers will span 850,000 square kilometers – about half of the entire country – this week, and will include 8,000 troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and other military arms, F-4, F-5, F-7, F-14 fighter planes, bombers, refueling planes, drones, and missile and artillery systems, according to Iranian media on Monday.

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Last week, tensions flared between the US and Iran when Iranian warplanes fired at an unarmed US drone over international waters on November 1. Iran said the craft violated its airspace.

Though the drills seem ominously tied to the incident and to Israel’s current security situation, the drills appear to have been in the works since September.

Iran also held “Great Prophet 7” missile exercises in July, and announced in August that it had tested short-range missiles under a new guidance system capable of reaching land and sea targets.

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Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.