The participation of Israel in celebrations held by Croatia provoked the fury of Serbia, sources said. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic harshly criticized Israel after its military jets took part in a ceremony in Croatia marking a military operation at the end of the Balkan country’s 1991-95 war against rebel Serbs.
"It's sad that an Israeli flag flew yesterday at the celebration of that criminal action," Dacic was quoted by media as saying.
Three Israeli Air Force F-16s took part in a flyby during the August 5 ceremony celebrating the 23rd anniversary of Operation Storm (Oluja). According to sources, these operations were the ones that restored Croatia's control over land held by Belgrade-backed Croatian Serb forces.
In addition to many hundreds of civilian deaths, some 200,000 Serbs were forced to flee their homes as a result of the operation, in what was described as the war's largest exodus of Serbs.
According to AP, the Israeli Embassy in Belgrade allegedly said that the Israeli jets’ participation was related "solely" to the announced purchase of Israeli F-16s by Croatia.
"This has no political elements or any connection to the historic relations between Serbia and Croatia," AP quoted the embassy as saying in a statement. The “solid friendship” between Israel and Serbia “will never be jeopardized in any way," it went on to say.
However, Dacic added it is "immoral" that Israel took part in the commemoration when tens of thousands of people -- mostly Jews, Serbs, Roma, and antifascist Croats -- perished in concentration camps run by the Croatian Ustasha regime during World War II.
Serbian leaders on August 4 marked the anniversary of Operation Storm, with President Aleksandar Vucic comparing the offensive to the policies of Nazi Germany. Croatia split from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and fought Croatian Serb forces for four years to establish its sovereignty. Relations between Serbia and Croatia have since remained volatile.