Departing IDF chief: Israel hit 1,000s of Iranian targets

Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warns Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander that “he who acts against us puts himself in danger.”  

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

As he completes nearly four years at the helm of the Israel Defense Forces, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has been granting a number of interviews to the media in which he minces few words. Not surprisingly, the conversations center to a large extent around Iran.

In a New York Times interview, Eisenkot said that Israel has “struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit.” He was referring to the ongoing campaign against the Iranian presence in Syria and its military arming and training of proxies.

As Eisenkot himself indicated in that quote, Israel has generally been tight-lipped after it is accused by Iran, Syria or Russia of carrying out air attacks on Iranian-related targets, including arms destined for the Hezbollah terror group in war-torn Syria. Yet, as he prepares to step down on Tuesday as Israel’s military chief, Eisenkot is uncharacteristically open as he summarizes his term, which began on February 16, 2015.

“We operated under a certain threshold until two-and-a-half years ago,” Eisenkot said, referring to Israel’s initial policy of mainly striking weapons shipments for Hezbollah, which is based in Syria’s western neighbor, Lebanon. Hezbollah has fought wars against Israel from Lebanon, and Israel is currently operating against tunnels dug by the terror organization to infiltrate into the Jewish state.

However, Hezbollah has also been involved in the fighting in Syria, even as the Iranian involvement in that country has become more widespread, according to Eisenkot.

“We noticed a significant change in Iran’s strategy,” said the IDF chief. “Their vision was to have significant influence in Syria by building a force of up to 100,000 Shiite fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They built intelligence bases and an air force base within each Syrian airbase. And they brought civilians in order to indoctrinate them.”

He explained that while Iran continues to seek to destroy the Jewish state and has tried to “strangle Israel from Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip,” IDF operations, including the exposure of Hezbollah’s cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon, has kept Iran “a long way from achieving that goal.”

In different interviews with Israeli television channels that aired on Saturday night, as well as in conversation with the New York Times, Eisenkot was asked about Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Speaking to the American newspaper, the Israeli military chief estimated that by 2016, Suleimani deployed 3,000 of his men in Syria, along with 8,000 Hezbollah fighters and another 11,000 foreign Shiite troops. The Iranian funds flowing toward the effort amounted to $16 billion over seven years.

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However, Eisenkot suggested that Suleimani had underestimated Israel’s determination to stop him.

“His error was choosing a playground where he is relatively weak,” Eisenkot said. “We have complete intelligence superiority in this area. We enjoy complete aerial superiority. We have strong deterrence and we have the justification to act. The force we faced over the last two years was a determined force, but not very impressive in its capabilities.”

In his interview with the Israel’s Hadashot TV, Eisenkot was asked if Israel has considered assassinating the Revolutionary Guard commander.

“He who acts against us puts himself in danger,” replied Eisenkot, adding that “I don’t want to issue threats.”

Israel’s Channel 10 asked Eisenkot: “Why is he still alive?”

Said Eisenkot: “That’s a question.”

The interviewer persisted: “If it was up to you?”

Eisenkot shrugged and said nothing.