Israeli commandos train in Cyprus in drill dubbed ‘Game of Thrones’
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Israeli commandos train in Cyprus in drill dubbed ‘Game of Thrones’

Air force, special forces travel to Mediterranean island for fourth time in 3 years; exercise meant to simulate fighting in rocky, mountainous terrain similar to Lebanon

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

  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Commander of the IDF Commando Brigade Col. Kobi Heller speaks on the radio during an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Commander of the IDF Commando Brigade Col. Kobi Heller speaks on the radio during an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF special forces take part in an exercise  in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli special forces carried out a large training exercise in Cyprus this week, simulating warfare in the island’s rocky regions, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Units from the IDF Commando Brigade took part in the drill — dubbed “Game of Thrones” — alongside several air force squadrons.

Col. Kobi Heller, commander of the Commando Brigade, said the exercise was an important test for his unit, which was formed in 2015, bringing together various special forces units under one umbrella.

“The exercise simulated a wide variety of missions and scenarios that demonstrated the maturation of operational capabilities and processes that began four years ago,” he said.

“During the exercise we stressed the importance of accuracy and paying attention to details, but more than anything, the personal capabilities of the soldiers stood out,” Heller added.

This was the military’s fourth exercise in Cyprus in the past three years, following an agreement between the two countries to cooperate on military matters.

The IDF said Cypriot troops also took part in the exercise.

The exercise focused on fighting in “a new and unknown terrain that simulates combat in the northern arena,” the military said, referring to Lebanon and Syria.

IDF special forces take part in an exercise in Cyprus simulating war in the north in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The subjects simulated included: rapid one-night raids with an emphasis on combat in a mountainous, dense and complex terrain; attacks on enemy infrastructure; flying in ground troops; close air support; providing equipment by air; slow refueling of helicopters; rescuing pilots who bailed out of their planes and evacuating casualties,” the military said.

“All of this was done facing planes and troops simulating the enemy.”

The military said soldiers from the Egoz, Maglan and Duvdevan units from the Commando Brigade took part in the exercise, as did the air force’s transport helicopter squadrons, unmanned aerial vehicle squadron, the elite search-and-rescue Unit 669, and an air squadron simulating enemy aircraft.

“It was impressive to see the [military’s] ability to use lethal and accurate force so far from the shores of the country,” said Brig. Gen Yoav Amiram, commander of the Palmahim Air Base, which sent some of the squadrons to Cyprus.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi traveled to Cyprus to visit the week-long exercise. During that trip, he also met with his Cypriot counterpart Lt. Gen. Ilias Leontaris, chief of General Staff of the National Guard of the Republic of Cyprus

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits a special forces exercise taking place in Cyprus in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military’s first special forces exercise in Cyprus was held in June 2017, with approximately 500 soldiers from the Egoz commando unit, along with representatives from a number of other special forces units.

In December of that year, Israeli commandos returned to the island nation, with members of the Oketz canine unit and Artillery Corps’ “Sky Riders” unit, which operates small drones, taking part in that exercise.

In October 2018, IDF special forces again traveled to Cyprus, carrying out an exercise simulating “a variety of scenarios and capabilities in the areas of counterterrorism, urban combat, field combat, breaching, demolitions and in-battlefield medicine,” the military said in a statement at the time.

Cypriot troops also came to Israel for counter-terrorism training in October 2017, holding a two-week exercise at a mock Arab town in the army’s Tzeelim training base.

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