US military chief in Israel to discuss joint missile defence drill
Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Israel Monday to discuss a joint missile defence drill that began a week ago, dpa reported.
An honour guard was to receive the US general at Israel's defence headquarters in central Tel Aviv shortly after noon, an Israeli military statement said.
Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was scheduled to host the welcoming ceremony.
Dempsey met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv late Sunday.
A statement from Barak's office said the two discussed the largest-ever joint Israeli-US drill, code-named Austere Challenge 12, scheduled to last about three weeks and which simulates missiles raining down on Israel from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
The two also debated security issues in the region.
"Security relations between the United States and Israel are deeper and stronger than they have been in many years," Barak said, according to the Hebrew statement.
Some 3,500 US troops are participating in the drill testing anti-missile batteries, with 1,000 troops inside Israel, and the rest taking part from Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.
A US Aegis ballistic missile defence ship is joining from the northern Israeli port of Haifa.
The drill is estimated to cost the US 30 million dollars, and Israel some 8 million dollars.