Israeli forces have carried out joint military maneuvers with US marines in the Negev desert in southern Israel as the allies up their military cooperation.
The exercise was held on Saturday as part of exercises on the occupied Palestinian territories’ borders with Lebanon and Syria and apparently hinged on countering guerilla warfare.
Israeli TV channels showed parts of the exercises in which Israeli soldiers engaged in street battles with resistance fighters and also featured US marines participating in the drills with their Israeli counterparts.
According to Wall Street Journal about 200 US Marines joined a battalion of Israeli soldiers earlier this month for an all-night march through the Negev desert.
They invaded a mock Arab village, an Israeli military-built recreation of a typical Palestinian town, used for combat training, while Israeli soldiers from another unit posed as resistance forces and explosions were triggered by pyrotechnics engineers to stimulate a battle between Israeli forces and Arab guerrillas.
According to US officials, the joint exercise was the biggest US-Israeli joint infantry maneuvers ever, following a similar exercise last year which involved no more than 20 US Marines. The officials added that an even bigger joint exercise will take place in the fall, this time involving tanks and armored vehicles.
US military assistance to Israel has notably increased this year with high-ranking US and Israeli officers shuttling between Tel Aviv and Washington with unusual frequency in recent months.
A series of joint military exercises in Israel over the past months has included a record number of American troops.
Last October, more than 2,000 troops from the Israeli and American armies participated in a joint military exercise codenamed “Juniper Cobra,” which included air, land, and sea forces from both the Israeli and the US militaries.
On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced the formal approval for purchasing the American F-35 Stealth fighter plane .