Amid rising tensions, US troops in Israel for missile defense drill

Five-day exercise will simulate massive missile attack

IAF fighter jets during the Red Flag joint exercise at Nellis air force base in Nevada  (photo credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
IAF fighter jets during the Red Flag joint exercise at Nellis air force base in Nevada
With tensions high on both the northern and southern fronts, US troops are in Israel and have deployed anti-missile defense systems across the country ahead of the biennial Juniper Cobra military exercise.
The large-scale, five-day drill will simulate a massive missile attack on Israel from both fronts and will be led by the Israel Air Force, the IDF confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“Such exercises are part of a long-term strategy and part of the ongoing cooperation between the IDF and the US military,” read the statement by the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit.
The joint exercise with the US Army European Command (EUCOM) is aimed at strengthening military cooperation against regional threats and promoting longterm security for Israel.
The last Juniper Cobra exercise in June 2016 saw more than 3,000 American troops taking part in what is considered the flagship exercise of the IAF Aerial Defense Division.
While the IDF said the drill, which has occurred every two years since 2001, is part of the annual training to maintain the readiness of troops, it comes amid a war of words with Hezbollah, which is thought to have an arsenal of between 100,000 and 150,000 missiles.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that should war erupt on the northern border with Hezbollah, Beirut would “pay the full price,” as the Lebanese army and Hezbollah “are one in the same.”
“We won’t allow pictures like those in 2006 where citizens in Beirut were on the beach while Israelis in Tel Aviv sat in shelters. If people are in shelters in Tel Aviv, all of Beirut will be in shelters,” Liberman stated at the 11th annual Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv.
During a visit to Moscow last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel would take action to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Syria and from turning Lebanon into a base for manufacturing precision missiles against Israel.
“I made it clear to him that we will not agree to either one of these developments and will act according to need,” Netanyahu stated.
Washington and Israel have signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war. In September, the first US base in Israel was inaugurated in the South.
The “base within a base” is run by EUCOM and includes barracks, offices and support services. According to Brig.- Gen. Zvika Haimovitch, the head of the Aerial Defense Division, the new base “will improve our abilities significantly.
It won’t get us to 100%, but it will get us much closer to achieving important things during war.”
In March, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of EUCOM and supreme allied commander for Europe, made his second visit to Israel, underscoring the strong and enduring military partnership between Israel and the United States and the US commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. Scaparrotti also met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen.Gadi Eisenkot several times over the past year, including in October when Eisenkot flew to Washington and met with the head of US Central Command.