IDF appoints new navy commander

US, Israel and Turkey train together for maritime emergencies.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi appointed Brig.-Gen. Eli Marom as the next commander of the Israel Navy on Thursday, in place of Maj.-Gen. David Ben-Bashat, who decided to step down from his post ahead of schedule last month. Marom, whose last post was as military attaché to Singapore, served in the past as deputy commander of the navy and head of Naval Intelligence. He was the favored candidate for the OC Navy post. Marom played a key role in the capture of the PLO's Karine-A weapons ship in 2002. Also on Thursday, naval and air units from Israel, the United States and Turkey wrapped up two days of joint search-and-rescue exercises in the eastern Mediterranean. Ten ships, including the INS Lahav, a Sa'ar 5-class missile ship, as well as four helicopters and a number of Hercules transport aircraft from the three countries participated in the exercise, dubbed "Reliant Mermaid VIII." The exercise is held once a year with the goal of creating interoperability between Israel and its allies. Bahrain, Jordan, Azerbaijan and Pakistan participated in the exercise on an observer status. Brig.-Gen. Ram Rutberg, commander of the Navy's Haifa Base, told The Jerusalem Post from Turkey that the purpose of the exercise was to create "international coalitions" with Israel's allies and to share techniques. He said the scenarios drilled during the exercise included rescuing naval ships hit by missiles as well as dealing with civilian maritime emergencies. Last month, the IAF rescued the crew of an Israeli ship that encountered bad weather in international waters between Cyprus and Beirut. Rutberg said that by enhancing cooperation and coordination the three countries would be able to respond more efficiently to future maritime emergencies.