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U.S.-Israel Juniper Cobra Military Drill Cancelled Over Coronavirus Scare

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U.S.-Israel Juniper Cobra Military Drill Cancelled Over Coronavirus Scare

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The US-Israel bi-annual military exercise – Juniper Cobra 20 began on March 3rd and was immediately interrupted by the COVID-19 hysteria.

“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 on March 4th.

“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.

As typical for these exercises, the scenario involves massive rocket attacks on Israel and a request from Israel to strengthen its own missile defense capabilities.

The rapid arrival, deployment and rear support of the American missile defense systems, their combat work in Israel (with the wide use of simulators), and interaction with Israeli missile defense systems (efficient distribution of targets between the systems) were to be worked out.

The exercises were to continue until 13.03.20. However, on March 4th, the Israeli Ministry of Health banned tourists from a number of European countries, including Germany, from entering the country (on the evening of March 5th the number of infected in Germany reached 543).

In the United States, there are no restrictions so far, but even there the situation is deteriorating (164 infected, 11 dead). And in the evening of March 4th, after consultations with representatives of EUCOM, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi decided to interrupt the exercises.

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 March 6th 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.

As of March 5th, 15 Israelis have been diagnosed with the virus and some 60,000-70,000 are in quarantine.

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