Cypriot, Israeli soldiers train together in mock Arab town
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Cypriot, Israeli soldiers train together in mock Arab town

Cyprus National Guard chief visits two-week joint exercise; IDF brigadier general declares drill ‘a success’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • Cypriot National Guard chief Llias Leontaris, center, visits a joint Israel-Cyprus exercise with Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, of the IDF's 98th Division, right, at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Cypriot National Guard chief Llias Leontaris, center, visits a joint Israel-Cyprus exercise with Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, of the IDF's 98th Division, right, at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Cypriot National Guard chief Llias Leontaris, center, visits a joint Israel-Cyprus exercise with Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, of the IDF's 98th Division, at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Cypriot National Guard chief Llias Leontaris, center, visits a joint Israel-Cyprus exercise with Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, of the IDF's 98th Division, at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army's Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

The head of the Cypriot military visited Israel on Wednesday to oversee a joint exercise between his soldiers and members of the IDF’s elite Egoz unit, the army said.

Members of the Cyprus National Guard arrived in Israel on Sunday for the two-week exercise, according to the IDF.

“The exercise focuses on urban warfare and tactical planning,” the army said in a statement.

Lt. Gen. Llias Leontaris, chief of General Staff of the National Guard of the Republic of Cyprus, visited the Cypriot and Israeli troops at the army’s Tzeelim training base, which houses a world-renowned urban combat center that is meant to simulate an Arab town.

Over the course of the two-week exercise, the Cypriot and Israeli soldiers will travel to other IDF training facilities as well, the army said.

Leontaris was joined by Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, the commander of the IDF’s 98th Division, which contains the Commando Brigade.

“The joint training of the elite commando Egoz unit, together with the special forces of the Cypriot army, is a success,” Gordin declared.

Members of the elite Egoz unit take part in an exercise in Cyprus in June 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The bilateral drill comes some four months after approximately 500 Israeli soldiers — many of them from Egoz — traveled to Cyprus for a large-scale war simulation in the island’s mountains.

It was the first exercise on foreign soil for the Commando Brigade, also known as the Oz Brigade, since its creation in December 2015.

The week-long drill tested the abilities of the commandos in new and challenging conditions, according to the chief operations officer of the Commando Brigade, who for security reasons can only be referred to as Maj. H.

It was the Commando Brigade’s sixth unit-wide exercise, and approximately 100 Cypriot commandos took part in it.

The Israeli Air Force also dispatched airplanes and helicopters for the drill, and representatives from a handful of other IDF units also participated.

The head of the Commando Brigade, Col. David Zini, oversaw the exercise, and the head of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, traveled to Cyprus in order to observe it.

Members of the elite Egoz unit take part in an exercise in Cyprus in June 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

H. and other Israeli personnel spoke glowingly of the week-long exercise, but according to local Cypriot media at the time, the drill rankled both Turkey, which is to hold its own exercise off the coast of the island, and one of the country’s opposition parties, which said that the joint exercise with Israel was “dangerous for Cyprus and for peace in the region.”

H. wouldn’t comment on the criticism, but said that he believed the Cypriots got a lot out of the exercise. Their military, he said, was a full partner in the drill, with a representative of the Cypriot special forces fighting inside the Egoz unit.

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