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    Israel, US troops train together to counter missile threats

    HATZOR AIR BASE, Israel — If war breaks out in the Middle East, US and Israeli forces are preparing to one day fight alongside each other to defend Israel against missile attacks from across the region.

    Nearly 5,000 Israeli and American troops have been training together in Israel for that very scenario. The ‘‘Juniper Cobra’’ exercise includes field training, computer simulations, and live-fire drills of missile-defense systems.

    ‘‘We will practice, train shoulder to shoulder, the same as we will fight in crisis times,’’ Brigadier General Zvika Haimovich, chief of Israel’s air defense command, said at the Hatzor air base in Israel.

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    Israel has made missile defense a priority since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein bombarded the country with 39 Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.

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    Today, the threat is far more formidable. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is now believed to possess well over 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel.

    Haimovich said Juniper Cobra is not aimed at any particular adversary. Instead, it is meant to simulate ‘‘very complex scenarios’’ that include simultaneous attacks from enemy countries and militant groups.

    He said the threats include multiple salvos, more accurate rockets and missiles, and a ‘‘multidirectional threat.’’

    associated Press