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Israel appoints navy officer to permanent position in Bahrain

The senior military officer will take up his post in the Gulf country in the coming weeks
Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz shaking hands with a Bahraini officer in Manama, in the presence of Commander in Chief Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, 3 February 2022 (AFP)

A senior Israeli navy officer will be permanently stationed in Bahrain, as Israel and Manama forge closer ties in the military and intelligence fields, the Hebrew news Channel 13 reported late on Thursday.

The officer, whose identity remains anonymous, will take up his position in the coming weeks, and will maintain communications with the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. Channel 13 reported that the appointment was approved by Israel's Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz.

Israel and Bahrain established diplomatic relations following the US-sponsored deals that saw the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan normalise ties with Tel Aviv. They have since dispatched ambassadors and strengthened ties in various trade, tourism and security areas.

Last week, Gantz met with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and signed a security cooperation deal to coordinate efforts against common foe Iran.

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Tensions in the Gulf between Iran and Arab states have been on the rise in recent weeks, following drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement. 

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The Israeli Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the memorandum of understanding "will support any future cooperation in the areas of intelligence, military to military, industrial collaboration and more".

The security pact is the first between Israel and a Gulf state, Ynet reported. Last week, Israel also participated in a US-led naval exercise alongside 60 nations, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Gantz's visit came within a few days of a trip to the UAE by Israel's President Isaac Herzog, to participate in the Israeli national day event at Dubai Expo 2020. 

"Against a backdrop of increasing maritime and aerial threats, our ironclad cooperation is more important than ever," Gantz said on Twitter, after visiting the Fifth Fleet's headquarters in Bahrain.

Bahrain hosts some operations for the US Central Command (Centcom), a military umbrella that Israel joined last year. 

Last week, the US said that it would deploy a guided-missile destroyer and state-of-the-art fighter jets to help defend the UAE after a series of missile attacks by the Houthis.

Late on Wednesday, the UAE said it had destroyed three drones with "hostile" intent.

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