In mountains and cities of Cyprus, IDF special forces train for war

In mountains and cities of Cyprus, IDF special forces train for war

Israeli troops, aircraft travel to Mediterranean island nation for second time this year for exercise with local soldiers

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

Israeli special forces and aircraft returned to Cyprus for a multi-day exercise with local troops this week, in the second such drill this year, practicing urban and mountain warfare, officers said.

The commander of a special forces unit that took part in the exercise said they simulated “generic” scenarios that could happen in any type of warfare, though he acknowledged that the mountains and woods of Cyprus bear some resemblance to those of Lebanon, the home country of the Hezbollah terrorist group.

The Oketz K9 unit and Artillery Corps’ “Sky Riders” unit, which operates small drones, also took part in the exercise, alongside other special forces units, said the commander, whose name could not be published for security reasons.

Local Cypriot forces also participated in much of the exercise.

The Israeli Air Force also sent multiple aircraft to Cyprus each day, giving many pilots the opportunity to hone their skills by flying over new terrain, a senior IDF official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The pilots were “flying in an unfamiliar area, a place where navigation is difficult, where landing is difficult,” the official said.

In June, approximately 500 soldiers from the Egoz commando unit, along with representatives from a number of other special forces units, traveled to the Mediterranean island nation for a similar exercise.

Israeli aircraft also took part in the June exercise, but in that case the same pilots stayed on the island the whole time.

In this week’s drill, on the other hand, the planes and helicopters flew there and back to Israel each day, which allowed for more pilots to take part, the senior official said.

Fighter jets, heavy transport helicopters, C-130 and C-130J transport planes, drones and other aircraft took part in the exercise.

The Israeli and Cypriot troops simulated war conditions and a variety of scenarios, from fighting inside buildings to long treks through the mountains, the special forces officer said.

In October, Cypriot soldiers traveled to Israel in order to train with Egoz.

“We fought shoulder to shoulder with them,” the special forces commander said.

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