US troops arrive for drill simulating massive missile attack on Israel
US forces are deploying in Israel ahead of a large-scale joint Israel-US military exercise, due to start next week, which will simulate a major conflict in which Israel is attacked with thousands of missiles.
The biennial Juniper Cobra military exercise, which is being held for the ninth time, will take place amid an escalation of rhetoric between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist group in southern Lebanon, which is believed to have an arsenal of between 100,000 and 150,000 short-, medium- and long-range missiles and a fighting force of some 50,000 soldiers, including reservists.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which seeks Israel’s destruction, has reportedly been threatening to open fire at IDF soldiers if Israel does not halt the construction of a barrier it is building along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that should war erupt again with Lebanon, Beirut would “pay the full price” for Iran’s entrenchment in the country, and that if the citizens of Tel Aviv are forced into bomb shelters “all of Beirut will be in bomb shelters.”
The drill set to start next week will simulate thousands of missiles, launched from several fronts, being fired into the Israeli homefront, a Channel 10 news report said Wednesday.
Some 3,200 soldiers from the IDF and United State’s European Command (EUCOM) took part in the February 2016 drill. It was America’s “premier exercise in this region and EUCOM’s highest priority exercise in 2016,” Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, head of the US Third Air Force, said at the time. “This exercise increases our military readiness, but just as importantly it also signals our resolve to support Israel.”
Speaking at an annual conference held by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Liberman said that Lebanon will be held to account in a future war because, led by the terrorist Hezbollah group, it has “sacrificed its national interests by subjugating fully to Iran.”
“Lebanon’s army and Hezbollah are the same — they will all pay the full price in the event of an escalation,” Liberman said. “If a conflict does break out in the north, ‘boots on the ground’ remains an option. We won’t allow scenes like in 2006, where we saw citizens of Beirut on the beach while Israelis in Tel Aviv sat in shelters… If people in Tel Aviv will be in bomb shelters, all of Beirut will be in bomb shelters.”
Read More: Times of Israel