NATO IDF 248.88.
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The Israel Navy and NATO on Sunday kicked off a weeklong joint exercise in Eilat. Six NATO vessels - from Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain and Turkey - docked in Eilat Port Sunday morning for joint drills with the navy's Red Sea Task Force.
Head of the NATO force, Capt. Ertugrul Joktunali, was met at the port by Red Sea Task Force commander Lt.-Col. Oren Guter.
The exercise, which will begin Tuesday, will focus on combating sea-based terrorism and underwater mines, as well as search-and-rescue drills.
The NATO force - including five minesweepers - has already held exercises with the Algerian Navy. After it leaves, it plans to conduct exercises with the Jordanian, Tunisian and Egyptian navies. The vessels are at the disposal of NATO members and are capable of immediate deployment around the world.
The IDF said the exercise was crucial for the Israel Navy in its efforts to coordinate the fight against global terrorism. NATO, IDF sources said, was interested in upgrading ties with Israel to combat the growing threat of global terrorism and possibly in response to Teheran's efforts to obtain nuclear power.
Guter and Joktunali said underwater mines were still a threat. The force discovered 80 underwater mines in recent patrols of the Mediterranean Sea, Joktunali said.
Israel is a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue - a 10-year-old forum for political consultations and practical cooperation between countries of the Mediterranean area, including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Jordan.
Joktunali said the force will return to Israel in November.