JERUSALEM (GDC) — France and Cyprus for the first time have joined the Israeli Navy-led Noble Dina naval exercise, which takes place annually but was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The exercise series, which this year took place in waters west of Cyprus, previously included counterterrorism scenarios and drills to protect ports. This year, as in the past, ships practiced anti-submarine procedures. The navies also conducted search-and-rescue scenarios as well as a drill simulating battle between ships, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Israel sent a submarine and the INS Romach, a Sa’ar 4.5-class missile boat housing anti-submarine systems. In total, Greece, France, Cyprus and Israel sent six ships, including submarines.
Israel recently took delivery of the Sa’ar 6 warship to improve the country’s defenses of its exclusive economic zone, but the vessel was not in attendance because it is still being outfitted. The last year saw tension between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as increased strain between Israel and Iran after an Israeli-owned ship was attacked near the Gulf of Oman. Israel accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of attaching an explosive device to the cargo vessel Helios Ray on Feb. 25 as it traveled from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. Iran has denied the allegation.
In addition, more than 1,000 tons of tar are estimated to have washed onto Israel’s Mediterranean coastline last month, causing extensive environmental damage and forcing the closure of beaches to the public. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority called the incident one of Israel’s worst environmental disasters, with the clean-up expected to take months. On March 3, the Environmental Protection Ministry identified the ship it believed was responsible for the Feb. 1 oil spill as the the Panama-flagged, formerly Libyan-owned tanker named Emerald.
Israel’s environmental protection minister has described the oil spill as an intentional attack by Iran. However, the Israel Defense Forces would not comment on the ongoing investigation, and Iranian officials have not publicly acknowledged the allegation.
Noble Dina is designed to strengthen cooperation among participating navies and enrich their repository of operational knowledge, Israel says. Lt. Cmdr. Amichai Rachamim, head of exercises for the Israeli Navy, emphasized the importance of having surface vessels as well as helicopters and air force assets from participants.
“It is focused not only on surface exercises but also multi-threat exercise of air and underwater and surface threats,” he said. “The main task is to combine and cooperate multinationally against the threats and practice our forces and ships in answering these threats and building the cooperation against these threats.
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