America’s military chief has visited Israel to observe the largest defence drill ever between the two countries. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak at the beginning of his visit.
Israeli Defence minister Ehud Barak:
“We are glad to have General Dempsey here visiting the Austere Challenge exercise, joint exercise, of significant magnitude, to make sure that we know how to cooperate if need will arrive in the area of anti-missile defence.”
General Dempsey is also meeting the head of Israel’s army and President Shimon Peres. The main objective of the visit is to oversee elements of Austere Challenge 2012. The air defence drill includes more than 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israelis. The two militaries are practising their ability to work together against a range of threats facing Israel and the US in the Middle East.
US Army chief Martin Dempsey:
“I’m honoured to be here and to see our soldiers working together, as we always do, our airmen, our sailors, because this is a joint exercise that seeks to help us cooperate against not just long range missiles, but rockets and artillery, and so I’m very excited about the opportunity.”
The joint exercise tests multiple Israeli and American air defence systems against incoming missiles and rockets from places as far away as Iran.
Tensions in the region remain high as Iran continues with its nuclear programme, which some international observers believe aims to produce atomic weapons.