Israel said Friday it joined Greece and Cyprus for naval exercises, confirming increased cooperation among countries that increasingly view Turkey as a rival in the Mediterranean Sea.
Exercise “Noble Dina” was led by Israel and also included France. AP reports it covered “anti-submarine procedures, search and rescue scenarios, and a scenario simulating battle between ships.”
“Over the past week, the Navy led a large-scale exercise in which it implemented capabilities in underwater warfare, search and rescue, convoy escort and surface combat,” Rear Admiral Eyal Harel, the head of Israeli naval operations, said.
“These exercises are of paramount importance in strengthening the Navy’s connection with foreign fleets who share common interests,” he added.
After a coronavirus-related delay, Israel’s navy is preparing for the long-awaited arrival of its next generation of missile boats. https://t.co/ksqHE3pgxt
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) October 4, 2020
Israel, Greece and Cyprus have taken a number of steps in recent months to cement ties, including advancing plans to build a 2,000 megawatt undersea electricity cable and a 1,900-kilometer (1,300-mile) undersea gas pipeline. The three countries’ defense ministers met in November and agreed to increase military cooperation.
Israel especially is working to build its naval forces to defend its strategic natural gas industry from the threat of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, as Breitbart News reported.
Greece and Cyprus meanwhile are embroiled in a dispute with Turkey, which has sent gas prospecting vessels into waters claimed by Greece and drilling ships into an area where Cyprus claims exclusive rights. The tension brought NATO allies Greece and Turkey close to open conflict last year, but tensions have eased since then.
Greece to Boost Military Amidst Tensions with Turkey https://t.co/anL1BgJQJD
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 8, 2020
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan portrays himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and has provided political support to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. A number of Hamas leaders are based in Turkey, and Erdogan met with the group’s top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, in December 2019.
Israel and Western countries view Hamas as a terrorist group. Turkey considers it a legitimate political actor because it won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, and denies providing any aid to the group’s armed wing.
AP contributed to this story