On Tuesday, during the appointment ceremony of incoming IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu told Iran to get out of Syria fast.
“I’m telling you, get out of there fast. We won’t stop attacking,” Netanyahu told participants in the ceremony.
His comments followed an official statement at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday in which Netanyahu confirmed the latest Israeli action against Iran in Syria.
“Just in the last 36 hours the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised,” Netanyahu told his cabinet.
The Israeli leader claimed the IDF and IAF had “worked with impressive success to block Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria” and had struck “Iranian and Hezbollah targets hundreds of times.”
In interviews with Israeli broadcasters and The New York Times (NYT) the outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot revealed more about how the Israeli military had succeeded to trim the Iranian military build-up in Syria and Lebanon.
Eisenkot said that the Israeli military had carried out “thousands of strikes” against the Iranian axis in Syria and in 2018 alone had used more than 2,000 missiles and bombs to stop Iran from building up its forces in the war-torn country.
The outgoing IDF commander also confirmed Israel could try to assassinate Qassem Soleimani the shrewd commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Soleimani is the driving force behind the attempt to encircle Israel and has established umbrella organizations of Shiite militias in both Syria and Iraq which are functioning as Iran’s proxy army in the region.
Eisenkot claimed the Israeli military had effectively stopped the Iranian military build-up in Syria and confirmed Iran is now increasing its entrenchment in Iraq where the IRGC-founded Hashd Al-Shaabi organization of predominantly Shiite militias is controlling the northern part of the country after the defeat of ISIS’ Caliphate.
The turning point in the covert war between Israel and Iran came when Soleimani ordered the launch of 30 missiles at northern Israel in the night of May 10, 2018.
None of these missiles reached their target but it gave the IAF the opportunity to deliver a devastating blow to the Iranian axis in Syria.
A fleet of 28 F-15 and F-16 warplanes launched missiles and dropped bombs at “80 separate Iranian military and Assad regime targets in Syria,” according to Eisenkot.
The former Chief of Staff claimed that as a result of the carefully prepared operation, which was dubbed ‘Operation Chess” by the IDF, Soleimani decided to withdraw his forces from the Golan Heights and to shift his focus from Syria to Lebanon and Gaza.
The destruction of Hezbollah’s attack tunnel project (Operation Northern Shield) and the revelation that Iran was actively helping Hezbollah with the conversion of crude rockets into GPS-guided missiles dealt another devastating blow to Soleimani’s Israel project, however.
The exposure of the underground missile facilities Hezbollah built with Iranian help in the Beirut area forced the Iranians and Hezbollah into dismantling the project, according to the Israeli government.
Operation Northern Shield has so far resulted in the destruction of six attack tunnels which were already crossing the Israeli border. The operation not only deprived Hezbollah from an important weapon but also delivered a mortal blow to the Iranian plan to surprise Israel in a future multiple-front-war.
The IDF operation also restored Israel’s deterrence vis a vis Hezbollah as it bore all the hallmarks of psychological warfare.
It was no coincidence Eisenkot waited for four years before ordering the destruction of the tunnels at the moment Hezbollah neared their completion.
The video of a scared Hezbollah operative who came to inspect an IDF robot which was equipped with a small explosive device and a camera was another example of the psychological warfare the IDF uses against the Iranian axis.
The images of the Hezbollah men fleeing after the device exploded in his face were very humiliating for the Iranian proxy.
Then there is Gaza where the Iranians acted via its IRGC branch Islamic Jihad and its newfound ally Hamas in the beginning of November 2018.
Soleimani reportedly ordered the escalation on November 9 and 10 and asked the Palestinian terror organizations to open up a new front in southern Israel.
Eisenkot now revealed why he opposed a new ground operation in Gaza.
The former IDF chief told NYT that he thought Israel should focus its attention on winning the war against Iran and called Hamas “a weak enemy”.
“When you fight for many years against a weak enemy, it also weakens you,” Eisenkot claimed while adding the IDF is making “continuous and kinetic efforts” to degrade the military capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
His successor Maj-Gen Aviv Kochavi is expected to continue Eisenkot’s sophisticated and intelligent warfare.
“The IDF is getting an excellent Chief of Staff,” President Reuven Rivlin said during the appointment ceremony of Kochavi while PM Netanyahu praised the incoming IDF chief of staff for his out-of-the-box thinking.