US deploys THAAD missile defence in Israel for exercise

The US army unloads a THAAD missile defense system in Israel March 2019

The US army unloads a THAAD missile defense system in Israel March 2019

The military stressed THAAD's presence in Israel was strictly defensive and "not related to any specific event".

It is the first such exercise in Israel, although the two allies hold regular joint war games.

U.S. European Command is now conducting a THAAD missile defense system exercise deployment in Israel, which is part of United States efforts to implement its operational concept & mission to assist in Israel's aerial defense. No dates have been announced for the maneuvers.

The advanced systems were deployed to Israel in early March, US and Israeli military officials revealed on Monday.

"This deployment incorporates key capabilities, systems and people stationed in the continental United States and Europe, and with our partners in the Israel Defense Force", it said in a statement released by the US Embassy in Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Monday that USA troops belonging to the US European Command (EUCOM) have deployed its THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system in Israel as part of a joint drill between the two allies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, as a testament to the strength of the two countries' military ties, saying that it makes Israel "even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East".

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He said all of the components of the THAAD system were at an air force base in the Negev desert, in southern Israel, and would soon be moved to an undisclosed site in southern Israel.

Israel's enemies in the region include Iran and Lebanon's Tehran-backed Hezbollah, both of which are supporting President Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria.

THAAD is a system, built specifically to intercept short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their terminal phase - re-entry or descent - with a direct hit approach.

In 2017, the U.S. government approved its sale to Saudi Arabia, providing Riyadh with state-of-the-art capabilities that could thwart an Iranian rocket attack.

Its deployment by the USA military in South Korea as defense against North Korean drew protests from Beijing, which feared its sensors would be capable of penetrating Chinese air space and upset the balance of power.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the arrival of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system as a sign of the US commitment to Israeli security.

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