US and Israel cancel Juniper Cobra exercise over coronavirus travel restrictions
The United States and Israel have scrapped the remainder of their joint military exercise Juniper Cobra 20 over the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. European Command based in Germany said Thursday, March 5.
“The decision is in alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19, and a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” EUCOM said in a statement.
The two-week drill which began on Tuesday would have involved 2,500 EUCOM soldiers, and 1,000 Israeli troops, according to the Israel Defence Forces on Twitter.
Among U.S. troops arriving in Israel for the exercise were some who were to be deployed from their German base.
But amid the growing spread of the virus, Israel on Wednesday slapped new travel restrictions on five European nations – including Germany, barring entry to almost all non-residents arriving from these affected countries.
Israel currently has 15 confirmed cases of the virus but no deaths, with some 7,000 others already in home-quarantine.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO exercises would go ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak, including Defender-Europe 20, which will see 20,000 troops deployed from the United States to Europe.
Last week, the U.S. and South Korean militaries postponed forthcoming joint exercises due to coronavirus. South Korea as of March 4 had more than 5,300 confirmed cases, according to the WHO.
With reporting from AFP