Israeli, US troops hold joint military exercise amid tensions in Mideast

Tension in the region continues after the US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2018

Israeli, US troops hold joint military exercise amid tensions in Mideast

HATZOR AIR BASE, Israel: If war breaks out in the Middle East, US and Israeli forces are preparing to one day fight alongside one another to defend Israel against missile attacks from across the region.
Nearly 5,000 Israeli and American troops have been training together in Israel for that very scenario. The “Juniper Cobra” exercise includes field training, computer simulations and live-fire drills of sophisticated missile-defense systems.
“We will practice, train shoulder to shoulder, the same as we will fight in crisis times,” Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, chief of Israel’s air defense command, told reporters at a briefing at the dusty Hatzor air base in southern Israel.
Israel has made missile defense a priority since former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein bombarded the country with 39 Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.
Today, the threat is far more formidable. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is now believed to possess well over 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel.
Hezbollah and Iranian forces are also active in neighboring Syria, backing Assad regime. Gaza’s Hamas rulers have a vast arsenal of rockets, and Iran has developed long-range missiles that can reach Israel.
These threats are concrete. Hezbollah rained some 4,000 rockets into Israel during a monthlong war in 2006, while Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza have fired thousands of rockets into Israel from the south. Last month, Israel intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria during a clash that caused an Israeli F-16 warplane to crash, and Israel shot down a Syrian anti-aircraft missile last year.
Haimovich said Juniper Cobra is not aimed at any particular adversary. Instead, it is meant to simulate “very complex scenarios” that include simultaneous attacks from enemy countries and militant groups.
“We practice that because this is a real scenario,” he said.
He said the threats include multiple salvos, more accurate rockets and missiles and a “multidirectional threat.”
“Those are our main assumptions,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s from south, north, east or others.”
Israel, in cooperation with the US, has developed a multilayer system of missile defense. This includes the “Arrow” system, which can intercept long-range missiles before they enter the atmosphere, the “David’s Sling” system for medium-range threats and the “Iron Dome,” which has been successful at intercepting short-range rocket fire. Israel also uses the American-made “Patriot” system.
While Israel takes pride in its ability to defend itself, Haimovich said the cooperation with the Americans provides additional depth to its “tool box.” About 2,500 American forces are participating in the drill, which began on March 4 and will run through the end of the month.
Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, commander of the US troops, said American forces are ready to deploy in Israel at Tel Aviv’s request. Once Israel gives the green light, he said American forces could start moving from Europe within two or three days.
Juniper Cobra has taken place every two years since 2001, adjusting each time to cope with ever-shifting battlefield.
With literally “thousands of threats” to prepare for, Clark said the drill is an opportunity for the two allies to improve communication and coordination.
“The ballistic missile defense mission is a very difficult one, very technical one, and it requires precise integrated effort to make it work, and that’s what we’re developing here,” he said.


Egypt sets virus vaccine target

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

Egypt sets virus vaccine target

  • Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days

CAIRO: Assistant Health Minister and Coordinator of the Anti-COVID-19 Scientific Committee Ihab Kamal said that 842 people have volunteered in just one week to take part in Egypt’s coronavirus vaccine trials.

About 332 have been admitted in accordance with the health ministry’s requirements, which include being free from chronic disease.

Kamal said: “The number of volunteers until now is not low. We are working on raising the awareness of the citizens through various media platforms on the importance of the vaccine tests.” He added that the required number of volunteers is 6000.

He said the first two phases of the vaccine tests are complete and the third phase has begun. He added that volunteers are called for 21 days, pointing out that volunteers take a second dose in case they do not suffer any side effects. Kamal said the blood’s antibodies are measured throughout the year as part of the program.

Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed announced on Thursday that she had launched the third and final phase of clinical trials on two vaccines developed by Egypt. She said the results of the two vaccine trials are positive so far.

Sources said that the Ministry of Health and the three centers taking part in the trials have received many applications. However, many of the applicants do not match the prerequisites, and therefore only 335 were accepted for the trials.

Zayed said in a press conference in Cairo that the current phase targets the participation of 6000 Egyptians. She said there are three places allocated for clinical trials.

Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days. After 45 days of the first dose, antibodies produced by the vaccine are measured to test their efficiency, Zayed said.

She said that national medical committees have been formed from civil and military bodies representing Egypt’s best medical experts.

She added that a committee will oversee conducting the clinical trials and that two vaccines out of seven have reached the third phase of clinical trials.

Zayed said that the first phase of the two vaccines included a test on a small group of 10 to 20 people with the aim of ensuring safety and also determining an appropriate dose. About 200 people took part in the second phase.

The third phase aimed included trials on 45,000 people from around the world, including 6,000 Egyptians.

The Ministry of Health and the company responsible for conducting the clinical trials explained the conditions that volunteers must follow to be eligible for tests.

They include an age bracket from 18 to 60 years old according to health condition. Registration must also be carried out using official documents. Volunteers must reside in Egypt or have valid residency documents during the trial period. Moreover, volunteers must sign an “informed consent” form prior to taking part in the trial.

There are a number of health conditions that prevent volunteers from taking part in the trials, including suffering from the symptoms of fever, dry cough, exhaustion and gonorrhea during the 14 days that precede the tests.