Gantz visited an American destroyer.. Israel signed a security cooperation agreement with Bahrain, the first of its kind with a Gulf country

Israel and Bahrain signed a security cooperation agreement on Thursday, the first of its kind between Israel and a Gulf country, during a visit by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the kingdom with the escalation of tension in the region.

On Wednesday, Gantz arrived in Manama on his first official visit to Bahrain since the agreement to normalize relations between the two countries in 2020 after the normalization of relations with the UAE, in a historic agreement that gave Israel an unprecedented foothold in the region close to Iran.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the memorandum of understanding will enhance any future cooperation in the fields of intelligence, military cooperation, and industry, among others.

The Israeli Defense Minister visited the US destroyer “USS Cole” (Reuters)

For his part, an Israeli official described Thursday’s agreement with Bahrain as the first of its kind between Israel and one of its new allies in the Gulf.

“Just one year after the signing of the (Abraham) agreements, we concluded an important defense agreement that will contribute to strengthening the security of the two countries and the stability of the region,” the Israeli Defense Ministry quoted Gantz as saying.

The ministry added that Gantz signed the document with his Bahraini counterpart and held talks with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at the royal palace.

Fifth Fleet

Earlier on Thursday, Gantz visited the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

Gantz, who is the first Israeli defense minister to visit Bahrain, toured the US destroyer USS Cole, which is scheduled to head to Abu Dhabi to help the Gulf ally in confronting Houthi attacks.

The headquarters of the US fleet is located off the Gulf waters, a few hundred kilometers from Iran, and at a sea area that hundreds of tankers carrying oil cross daily, and in recent years it has witnessed attacks against ships accused of being behind Tehran.

Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet, as well as some operations of the US Central Command (Centcom), an umbrella for military coordination in the Middle East, which Israel joined last year.

“Against the backdrop of increasing naval and air threats, our strong cooperation is more important than ever,” Gantz wrote on Twitter after his visit to the US Naval Base.

The Commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, said after Gantz’s tour that the Israeli official’s visit “highlights the importance of the decades-old strategic relationship of the US Fifth Fleet with Bahrain and the expansion of the partnership with Israel.”

The UAE said, on Wednesday, that it had intercepted three drones that entered its airspace in an uninhabited area, in the fourth attack of its kind in the past few weeks.

American-led exercises

On Tuesday, a major naval exercise was launched in the region led by the United States and with the participation of 60 countries and joint organizations, including Israel, which is participating for the first time in these exercises along with a number of countries that do not establish diplomatic relations with it, including Saudi Arabia.

The training comes at a time of rising tension in the region due to the controversial Iranian nuclear program, and the Houthis’ targeting of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Last July, the MT Mercer Street oil tanker operated by an Israeli businessman was attacked off Iran, killing two of their crew. Several countries, most notably the United States, Britain and Israel, accused Iran of being behind the attack, which Tehran denied.

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