JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel has deployed anti-missile defense systems around the country ahead of a joint US-Israeli military exercise that takes place every two years.
Dubbed 'Juniper Cobra 2018', the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the US European Command (USEUCOM) will conduct the exercise "in the area of ballistic missile defense." It's "part of the ongoing cooperation" between the IDF and USEUCOM, the IDF said in a statement.
The five-day exercise is designed to prepare the response to a large-scale missile attack on Israel's northern and southern border. The Israel Air Force leads the exercise, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The exercise is taking place as Iran's Lebanese-based proxy, Hezbollah, stepped up its threats against Israel. Military experts say Hezbollah may have as many as 150,000 missiles in its arsenal.
The Post quoted Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying Israel considers the Lebanese army and Hezbollah "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," the Post quotes Lieberman as saying at the Institute for National Security Studies 11th annual conference in Tel Aviv.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from embedding a military presence in Syria and turning Lebanon into a missile manufacturing base.
Netanyahu said he made it clear that Israel will do whatever it takes to defend its citizens.
Juniper Cobra began in 2001 as part of the IDF's annual training.
"Such exercises are part of a long-term strategy and part of the ongoing cooperation between the IDF and the US military," the IDF's Spokesperson said in a statement.
The goal of the joint exercise is to strengthen cooperation between the Israel Defense Forces and the US Army European Command (EUCOM) against "regional threats."
In June 2016, more than 3,000 US troops took part in the last Juniper Cobra exercise in what's become a key exercise of the Israel Air Force's Aerial Defense Division.