Israel to beef up military presence in eastern Mediterranean
REUTERS photoIsrael is preparing to boost the strength of its naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean in order to protect the country's energy investments there, daily Hürriyet reported.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Gen. Benny Gantz have proposed a plan to increase the number of vessels and soldiers in the area.
The plan seeks to add four new warships to the Israeli Navy while also deploying more troops in the area and utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for patrol duties.
The $1 billion plan reportedly aims to protect Israel's off-shore natural gas platforms in the eastern Mediterranean from "terrorist attacks."
The off-shore platforms are privately owned and some of them are located as far as 360 kilometers from the Israeli coastline, within international waters.
Israel is currently running a limited patrol duty with five warships. The burden on the Navy is likely to increase when the platforms start to pump natural gas in 2012, the report said.
Joint gas exploration by Israel and Greek Cyprus has raised tensions between Turkey and the two countries. Ankara responded to the exploration by sending warships and a gas exploration vessel of its own, straining ties even further.
Israel also has an ongoing dispute with Lebanon as the two countries do not have a set sea border between them.