The Greek army launched an unscheduled military exercise Thursday along its border with Macedonia and a cluster of islands near Turkey, with fighter jets passing over a tent city in Idomeni near the border.
Sources within the Greek army confirmed that emergency maneuvers had been ordered in the northern city of Kilkis and in Oinousses, a chain of Greek islands off the coast of Turkey. The drills involved an airborne special forces unit backed up by aircraft, and air defense units along the island chain.
The military exercise comes at a time of increased tensions among Greece and the two neighboring countries over the refugee crisis. On Wednesday, for the second time in three days, clashes erupted at the tent city between Macedonian police and refugees protesting the border closings that left more than 11,000 of them stranded in the camp.
On Sunday, around 300 migrants were injured in Idomeni when they tried to break through a border fence and Macedonian riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas to push them back.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras condemned the Macedonian police after the clash with protesters, saying their use of rubber bullets and tear gas against unarmed migrants was “shaming” Europe.
Macedonia denied using rubber bullets and said the migrants were throwing rocks at police officers.
Greece has accused Turkish warplanes of repeatedly entering Greek airspace, flying over the Oinousses islands, though Turkey disputes whether the area should, in fact, be controlled by Greece.
According to a source in the Greek air force, the two sites were chosen for the unscheduled war games because they were high-profile and had “been in the news” in recent days.
Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.