Juniper Cobra Missile Defense drill canceled over coronavirus

Thousands of Israeli and US troops were set to participate in Juniper Cobra

IDF troops drill alongside US Marines as part of Juniper Cobra 2018​ (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
IDF troops drill alongside US Marines as part of Juniper Cobra 2018​
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
The 10th biannual Juniper Cobra exercise between the IDF and United States European Command (EUCOM) was suspended on Wednesday, as fears over coronavirus continue to rattle Israel and the world.
“In light of the Health Ministry’s instructions and a situational assessment regarding the spread of the coronavirus, and in close coordination with EUCOM, the [IDF] chief of staff and the EUCOM commander decided to halt the exercise,” the IDF said in a statement Wednesday night.
“The IDF appreciates and values the close cooperation with the US military and anticipates joint exercises in the future,” it said.
The biannual drill, one of the IDF’s largest international ones, was supposed to include 600 US troops stationed in Europe, many in Germany, landing in Israel to take part. But on Wednesday, the Health Ministry added Germany to the list of countries from which visitors to Israel must enter quarantine for 14 days.
The 10-day-long drill was scheduled to see more than 2,500 US troops participate in several different locations  in Israel, Europe and the US. They were supposed to have trained alongside 1,000 Israeli air-defense troops, logistics units, medical forces and additional IDF units.
The exercise was to have simulated a scenario in which American forces are deployed in Israel to work alongside the IDF’s air-defense force. The troops would have practiced possible scenarios of missile threats in various sectors, with simulations of the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 missile-defense system, an advanced version of the Iron Dome, David Sling system, as well as a ballistic-image management center in collaboration with Home Front Command.
The cancellation of the drill came days after another joint exercise was shut down over concerns of the novel coronavirus.
The “Eagle Genesis” exercise between the IDF’s Ground Forces and EUCOM troops to train against regional threats was canceled, and more than 60 US personnel who had traveled to Israel returned to their bases on Friday at the request of the Israeli government.
A US military official told CNN the drill was canceled “out of an abundance of caution,” despite none of the American troops, including paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade stationed in Italy, having reported ill.
On Wednesday night, the IDF said Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi was postponing a scheduled trip to the US due to Health Ministry recommendations against traveling abroad.
As of Thursday, 15 Israelis have been diagnosed with the virus and some 60,000-70,000 are in quarantine. The Health Ministry on Wednesday issued new instructions and warnings to citizens and visitors to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It included Germany, Austria, Italy and several other European nations on the list of countries from which people arriving in Israel must be quarantined for 14 days.