The US Army and Israeli Defence Forces will conduct a joint military exercise in 2012, marking it the largest exercise in US-Israeli military history, US assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said.

The US European Command’s annual exercise, Austere Challenge, will be combined with the annual Juniper Cobra exercise in 2012.

More than 5,000 US and Israeli forces will participate in the exercise, which will involve simulation of Israel’s ballistic missile defence system.

The exercise is expected to further strengthen the US-Israel relationship as well as to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge.

The troops will also hone their skills to perform effectively during urban warfare and counter-terrorism missions.

Shapira also assured that US President Barack Obama’s administration would continue to provide Israel with $3bn in annual military assistance in future fiscal years.

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