Israel takes part in large-scale evacuation exercise in Cyprus

Argonaut 2019 drills on possible evacuation of civilians from neighboring countries

By
June 3, 2019 17:58
3 minute read.
Israel takes part in large-scale evacuation exercise in Cyprus

Israel participates in evacuation exercise in Cyprus with several leading armies of the world including the United States and France (2019). (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)

Israel has completed the large-scale Argonaut 2019 exercise on Cyprus alongside 21 other nations which involved drilling the possible evacuation of civilians from Middle Eastern nations.


The drill which ended on Thursday included countries such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany and took place in four phases within the Nicosia’s FIR and Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone.
During the drill authorities evaluated the country’s national plans to take in large number of evacuees from neighboring countries in times of need as well for the management of search and rescue operations.


Cyprus’s Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that given its proximity to the Middle East, Cyprus plays an important role as a regional "safe transfer hub."



Its general aim was the development and interoperability between the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, the EU Member States as well as third countries like Israel during the management of humanitarian crises in the Eastern Mediterranean, local media reported.

While the by-annual drill was not tied to any current events, the exercise will be simulating real-world scenarios which the island nation has faced. 

During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, thousands of foreign nationals were evacuated from Lebanon with over 25,000 mainly Western foreign nationals making their way to Cyprus which had fewer than 800,000 people at the time. It was described by Cypriot officials as the biggest emergency since the partition in 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern part of the island.

Israel did not participate in Argonaut 2017 which saw troops from 22 countries drill on scenarios such as dealing with a terrorist hijacking as well as coping with an influx of civilians fleeing a conflict in the Middle East.

Instead it sent representatives as observers only.

Israel and Cyprus and neighboring Greece are close allies and share a number of strategic interests. While all have shared economic interests, such as the ambitious project to build an undersea gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Crete to mainland Greece, the three countries also hope to keep the Russian-Shiite axis from growing.  

In addition to Argonaut 2019, the IDF held a separate drill in Cyprus, sending troops from the  elite Egoz special forces unit as well as units from the Israel Air Force.

During the drill the troops from Egoz trained for a wide variety of scenarios including anti-terror operations and combat situations in both urban and rural areas. In one scenario dozens of troops carried a mock operation at night in an area which simulated south Lebanon.

During the drill, air force units from both countries conducted basic practice exercises, troop transport operations and training for search and rescue missions, aimed at locating and retrieving downed pilots during a combat situation in hostile territory while facing advanced threats.



During the drill, air force units from both countries conducted basic practice exercises, troop transport operations and training for search and rescue missions, aimed at locating and retrieving downed pilots during a combat situation in hostile territory while facing advanced threats.


As part of the exercises, Israeli units operating in Cyprus also used remotely piloted aircraft for the first time outside of Israeli territory.


“The drill is another milestone in the close and meaningful cooperation between the armies, since this is the fourth training exercise conducted by the IDF in cooperation with the Cypriot army,” the statement read, adding that “the exercise contributed to the strategic cooperation and strengthening of the connection between the Israel Defense Forces and the Cyprus army.”

In June of last year the defense ministers from the three countries held the second trilateral meeting to bolster security and expand cooperation on cybersecurity, joint military drills and search and rescue operations in the eastern Mediterranean.


"It's much better to counter regional threats together, all three countries together," former Israel defense minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time.



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