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Israeli soldiers join African Lion military drill in Morocco

In first, Israeli soldiers join 'African Lion' military drill in Morocco
3 min read
06 June, 2023
Israel participated in the event last year, only as an international military observer and without soldiers taking part on the ground.
Last July, then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi held a first official visit to Morocco. [Getty]

A group of Israeli soldiers and commanders are set to actively participate in the international "African Lion 2023" military exercise held in Morocco, marking the first time the IDF takes an active part in the military exercise.

On Sunday, twelve soldiers of the Golani Brigade's reconnaissance unit left Israel to join in the final two weeks of the international drill in Morocco.

The 19th edition of the annual event, which features 8,000 service members from 18 countries, is co-organised by the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces and the United States Army.

"Our collective ability to bring like-minded nations together for an exercise like this is truly impressive," Maj. Gen. Joel Tyler, commander of the United States Africa Command, announced late on Monday.

The war games include exercises in operational planning and fighting weapons of mass destruction, tactical land, sea, air and special forces training, as well as airborne operations.

According to the IDF, the Israeli forces "will focus on practising various combat challenges that combine urban infantry warfare and underground warfare in which they specialize, and will conclude the training in a common exercise for all armies."

African Lion is the centrepiece of the AFRICOM exercise strategy.

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Israel participated in the event last year, yet only as an international military observer and without soldiers taking part on the ground.

The event kicked off on Sunday and runs until 16 June, covering seven regions of the North African country - Tan Tan, Mehbes, Tiznit, Kenitra, Ben Guerir and Tifnit.

Israeli media said Golani Brigade troops are only participating in the drill in Morocco, however, parts of AFRICOM are also held in Ghana, Senegal, and Tunisia - states that do not have diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.

Since they normalised ties in December 2020, Morocco and Israel have been ambitiously working to boost cooperation in the military, security, trade and tourism fields, despite the persistent political and social opposition to normalisation in the North African Kingdom.

A year later, then-defence minister Benny Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, the first such agreement between Israel and a state in the Middle East and North African region.

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The agreement formalised the defence ties between the two countries, allowing for smoother cooperation and arms sales between the two states.

Last July, then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi held a first official visit to Morocco. In February, the chief of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar also visited Rabat.

Meanwhile, Knesset ​Speaker Amir Ohana is scheduled to fly to Rabat on Wednesday on an official visit to the Moroccan Parliament. Rabat has yet to confirm the visit.

Ohana, a member of Israel's ruling Likud Party, is the first Knesset speaker ever invited for a state visit to the parliament of a Muslim country. His parents were born in Morocco and immigrated to Israel in the 1950s.

"History is being made before our eyes, and it heralds the strengthening of the relationship between the two countries, the greater closeness between the nations and expanding the circle of peace," said Ohana in a written statement.