Nearly 2,500 Marines landed in Israel on Tuesday as part of a biennial military exercise known as Juniper Cobra.
The Marines, deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, will train with Israeli Defense Forces, as the IDF carries out a series of ballistic missile drills. However, Marines will not directly participate in the missile drills, according to a command release.
“Our focus during Juniper Cobra 18 will be to hone our warfighting skills and ensure we are ready to react to any contingency we might face in U.S. 6th Fleet,” Col. Farrell J. Sullivan, the 26th MEU commanding officer, said in a command release.
“The exercise provides an opportunity to demonstrate the readiness of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and 26th MEU, and showcases our truly unique capability to project and sustain combat forces ashore from a sea base.”
Juniper Cobra is a biennial exercise that has taken place since 2001, the last iteration of the joint training event was in 2016.
The event comes amid heightened tensions in the region as the Syrian civil war continues to play out just across the Israeli border and a resurgent Hezbollah emboldened by years of experience in modern warfare is emerging as a major threat to Israel.
Marines will be deployed to various locations and at times in the vicinity of civilian populations throughout Israel during the exercise.
“Israel and the United States are strong allies, and I’m looking forward to seeing everything our Navy-Marine Corps team will accomplish with them to increase our capabilities and build our relationship,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, commanding officer of Iwo Jima, in a command release.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.