Cypriot opposition criticizes government for hosting Israeli military exercises

Cyprus’ main opposition party has criticized the government for hosting recently concluded Israel Defense Forces military exercises, calling it a “dangerous development for Cyprus”.

The IDF concluded a major military exercise in Cyprus on Thursday, simulating a military ground offensive into the heart of Lebanon in a potential war against the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.

The Mediterranean island was chosen both for its terrain – mountainous along a coastal plain, like Lebanon – and its proximity to Israel. The exercise simulated various difficulties during a ground assault, such as the supply of food, water and ammunition; communication problems; and the general complications of operating in uncharted territory.

But the main communist opposition Akel party said on Thursday the move jeopardized Cyprus’s security and compared the Israeli army to the Turkish army which occupies the northern half of the divided island.

“The territories and cities of our country cannot be turned into training grounds for foreign armies,” Akel said, according to the Cyprus Mail.

“In addition to this, Cyprus should avoid cooperating with a foreign army with a history of occupation, colonization, war crimes and violation of international laws, all of which remind us of the Turkish occupation of the island,” the party said.

Akel has a long history of anti-Israel policies and was the only party to vote against the Cypriot-Israeli security agreement signed in 2020.

Israeli troops hold a major exercise in Cyprus, in an image released by the military on June 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Besides Akel, the Cyprus Mail also reported that there had been significant complaints from local residents about noise from military vehicles and artillery fire.

In recent years, Israel, Cyprus and Greece have formed an increasingly close alliance aimed at countering Turkey as a strategic rival in the Mediterranean Sea.

Cyprus did not participate directly in the exercise. Still, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi hailed the “strategic alliance” between the countries during the exercise.

The IDF sees the eastern Mediterranean region as an area of ​​important interest in order to maintain security stability, where “strategic cooperation” with partners – such as Cyprus and Greece – is of great importance, the IDF said. officials.

Also during the final week of the month-long major exercise – dubbed Chariots of Fire – the Air Force simulated airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, over the Mediterranean Sea.

Chariots of Fire was the largest military exercise in decades.

He addressed the possibility of sudden events breaking out in multiple theaters at the same time, while focusing on the fight against Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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