Israeli forces end huge war drill in Cyprus

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With the largest number of troops ever sent abroad, the Israel Defence Force simulated military activity in ‘enemy territory’ in Paphos to wrap the largest ever war games with Cyprus amid criticism.

Thousands of combat soldiers, commanders, and support troops from the Israel Defense Forces conducted a mass simulation of fighting in Lebanon this week in Cyprus.

The exercise is part of the Israeli military’s month-long “Chariots of Fire” manoeuvre to replicate military activity in enemy territory, particularly on Israel’s northern front.

It will end on Friday; the Cyprus part is wrapped up on Thursday.

The simulation in Paphos included the largest number of troops sent abroad for operational practice to date, according to the IDF.

The exercise began in Israel, where combat units were told to arrive at air force and navy bases prepared with equipment and vehicles for combat.

When the signal was given, thousands of soldiers from the commando and paratroopers brigades and other special forces and elite reserve units boarded ships, planes, and helicopters to Paphos.

Cyprus’ Defence Ministry said Thursday: “The large-scale interdisciplinary exercise “AGAPINOR 2022″ is part of the bilateral defence cooperation program that indicates the excellent relations between the Republic and Israel in Defence and Security.”

The exercise took place on Republic of Cyprus territory and combined land, air and naval operations and special and logistics operations.

“The purpose of the exercise was to strengthen the interoperability of the armed forces, increase their operational capabilities through joint training, exchange of experiences and tangible proof of good neighbourly relations between the two countries.”

During AGAPINOR 2022, 70 members of the National Guard went to Israel, where they participated in an exercise within an urban area in specially designed facilities.

Helicopter Squadron 113 was deployed in Cyprus with Black Hawk and combat helicopters as part of the exercise.

The pilots practised new ways of collecting and parachute equipment for troops on the ground.

Ties between Cyprus and Israel have grown stronger, built on an energy alliance with Egypt and Greece.

The two countries have held many joint military and security activities, with the US and Greece taking part in some.

Although it took part in the larger Israeli exercises, Cyprus said they were not aimed against any third party.

The Cypriot foreign ministry said they were “based on fictitious scenarios” and “not targeted against any other country in the region”.

“This is the peak of one of the biggest and most extensive drills we’ve held in years,” Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday after a one-day visit to Cyprus.

A Cypriot Foreign Ministry statement Wednesday said the aim was to “increase the level of defence readiness of the Cyprus National Guard.

“It is based on fictitious scenarios and is not targeted against any other country in the region.”

“The defence capabilities of Cyprus are strictly defensive. We face a constant threat from Turkey’s occupying forces on our territory and pose no threat to our partners in the region.”

But Opposition AKEL criticised the war games in Cyprus, calling it a “dangerous development.”

“Cities and residential areas of the country cannot be turned into training grounds for any foreign army,” AKEL said.

“The government owes an explanation to the Cypriot people, considering the dangers posed by the involvement of Cyprus in the military plans of Israel but also the use of Cypriot territory for rehearsals of military operations against neighbouring friendly states.”