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January 23, 2023 5:11 pm
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US, Israel Launch Historic Joint Military Exercise

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

Israeli F-35 fighter jets are seen off the wing of a US Air Force refueling tanker, Oct. 12, 2020. Photo: US Air Force.

US Central Command and the Israel Defense Forces on Monday launched a week-long military exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea believed to be the largest ever held between the two countries.

“We can’t really find another (exercise) that even kind of comes close,” a US official told CNN.

Centcom says the drill, titled “Juniper Oaks,” will include a live fire exercise with more than 140 aircraft including B52 bombers, F-35s, F-15s, F-16s, FA-18s, AC-130s, and Apache helicopters, as well as 12 naval vessels and rocket artillery systems.

“These kinds of exercises – which CENTCOM routinely conducts with our partners – develop interoperability between military forces, increase military capabilities, and are important to the security and stability of the region,” said US Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, commander of Centcom. “The lessons learned during these exercises are exportable to our partners across the region,”

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The exercise comes as the US and its partners continue to impose new sanctions on Iran and as diplomatic talks to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal remain stalled.

Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting Sunday following the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s visit to Israel last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said their discussions had focused on Iran’s threat to regional security.

“I must say that regarding the meetings, I was impressed that there is a genuine and mutual desire to reach understandings on this issue, which is of decisive importance to the security of the state,” Netanyahu said.

Iran for its part on Monday said that it was recommending joint military drills with Syria, which Iran’s highest ranking military commander said was “at the forefront of supporting Palestine against the Zionist regime,” according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency. 

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