Amid threats from Tehran, IDF chief says army will keep fighting Iran in Syria

After killing of Iranian nuke scientist, Kohavi says military is ‘aware of possible developments,’ but operating as usual; praises troops for thwarting attack on Golan border

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks with the head of the 210th 'Bashan' Division overlooking the Syrian border on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

By JUDAH ARI GROSS29 November 2020, 6:02 pm  0IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks with the head of the 210th ‘Bashan’ Division overlooking the Syrian border on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Army chief Aviv Kohavi on Sunday said the military planned to continue fighting Iran’s presence in Syria amid heightened tensions in the region following the killing of Iran’s top military nuclear scientist two days prior.

“Our message is clear: We will continue to operate forcefully as needed against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and we will continue to maintain full preparedness against any expression of violence against us,” Kohavi said during a tour of the Northern Command.

In the aftermath of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s death on Friday in a combined bombing and shooting attack, Iranian military officials and politicians threatened swift revenge against the Jewish state, which it accused of carrying out the operation.

Though Israeli embassies abroad and Jewish communities around the world raised their level of alertness following the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Israel Defense Forces did not follow suit, an apparent indication that it did not anticipate an Iranian retaliation in the form of an immediate military strike.

During his visit to the Syrian border, Kohavi noted that despite the heightened tensions in the north, the military was in “full routine,” though it was “aware of the possible developments in the region,” the IDF said in a statement.IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, sits with head of the IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, left, during a visit to northern Israel on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

During the visit, the army chief met with IDF Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Amir Baram and the head of the 210th Bashan Division, Brig. Gen. Roman Gofman, who is responsible for defending the Golan border.

For the most part, the threat from Iranian proxies — namely Hezbollah and other militias in Syria and Lebanon — is primarily against Israel’s northern borders. Tehran, however, also backs the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group and, to a lesser extent, Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Kohavi toured the border with Syria, where earlier this month Israeli troops uncovered three anti-personnel mines that the military said were planted by Syrian operatives operating under the orders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force.

In response to the thwarted bombing attack, which the IDF believed was meant to target the soldiers who patrol the border, the military launched a series of airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, killing at least four Syrian soldiers who were operating air defense batteries that were targeted by Israeli fighter jets.

Three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, which were uncovered on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kohavi praised the troops who took part in both the uncovering of the mines and in the retaliatory strikes the following day.

“I came here to discuss the security situation with a focus on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and in order to thank all those who were involved in the precise and successful effort to expose the mines 10 days ago near the border and in the attack that was carried out afterward in Syria against Iranian and Syrian targets,” he said.

Israel views a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria as an unacceptable threat, which it will take military action to prevent.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

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