JERUSALEM (Jan. 7)
Israeli, American and Turkish vessels held joint naval exercises this week in the eastern Mediterranean.
Iran, Egypt and other Muslim countries criticized the exercises.
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, who observed a joint sea and air rescue drill, called on other regional states, including Syria, to join Israel in future exercises.
“This is a purely humanitarian exercise to improve our coordination in such rescue efforts,” he told reporters Wednesday.
On the eve of the drill, the U.S. State Department also rejected the criticism of “some states in the Middle East.”
State Department spokesman James Rubin stressed that the exercises were not directed against any particular country.
The commander of the Jordanian navy, Brig. Gen. Hussein Hasawneh, joined the exercises as an observer.
The exercise, “Reliant Mermaid,” involved three Israeli ships, two Turkish frigates and an American destroyer, in addition to three helicopters and one Israeli sea-scan reconnaissance plane.
During the course of Wednesday’s drill, the forces responded to a “distress” call from three yachts about 50 miles from the coast of Haifa.
Rescue forces were sent to the site, where the “drowning victims” — two dummies simulating sailors — were identified and rescued.