martin dempsey
Martin Dempsey. Photo by AP
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U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey was in Israel on Monday to discuss a joint missile defense drill that began a week ago.

An honor guard was to receive the US general at Israel's defense headquarters in central Tel Aviv shortly after noon, an Israeli military statement said.

Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was scheduled to host the welcoming ceremony.

Dempsey met Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv late Sunday.

A statement from Barak's office said the two discussed the largest-ever joint Israeli-U.S. drill, code-named Austere Challenge 12, scheduled to last about three weeks and which simulates missiles raining down on Israel from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The two also debated security issues in the region.

"Security relations between the United States and Israel are deeper and stronger than they have been in many years," Barak said, according to the Hebrew statement.

Some 3,500 US troops are participating in the drill testing anti-missile batteries, with 1,000 troops inside Israel, and the rest taking part from Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.

A U.S. Aegis ballistic missile defense ship is joining from the northern Israeli port of Haifa.

The drill is estimated to cost the US $30 million, and Israel some $8 million.