IDF touts ‘Southern Spirit’ strategy as new commander takes reins in Gaza envelope

During a ceremony to inaugurate Eliezer Toledano as head of the IDF’s Southern Command, outgoing commander Herzi Halevi referenced the “Southern Spirit” plan to confront “terrorist armies.”

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

On Sunday, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano took the reins of the IDF’s Southern Command, replacing Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who completed approximately three years in the post.

Halevi is transitioning into his new position as Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

The IDF held the handover ceremony at the Southern Command Headquarters in Be’er Sheva, which was presided over by IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. Members of the General Staff, the heads of local authorities and the Halevi and Toledano families were also present at the ceremony.

In his comments at the event, Kochavi referenced the impending International Criminal Court (ICC) probe of alleged “war crimes” committed by Israel, charges the IDF vehemently denies based on exhaustive investigations of the military’s conduct in the Gaza periphery and beyond.

“Until a year ago, nearly every day the Southern Command faced a wide range of threats and challenges posed by the terrorist armies in Gaza,” said Kochavi. “The pace and scale of such incidents has since subsided considerably. This did not occur on its own, rather, thanks to a combination of military force and the implementation of civilian policy. IDF soldiers and their commanders, past and present, I support your action, and stand with you in the face of any accusations.”

Kochavi added, “The values of the IDF and international law were not only intended to prevent harm to noncombatants on the other side, they were equally intended to enable us to protect our citizens.”

Halevi spoke after Kochavi, citng “a new, updated ‘Southern Spirit’ plan” to confront “terrorist armies” operating on the edges of the Gaza envelope.

Halevi concluded, “We are proud of [our] achievements and are committed to the development of the Gaza Strip envelope, a safe and prosperous south with proper governance in all civilian areas.”

Incoming commander Toledano also addressed the ceremony, stating, “I am responsible for border protection, for winning the war and for providing security and a sense of security to the citizens of Israel in the Negev and the Arava. We will do it together, with solid spirits, broad shoulders, straight backs and devotion in our eyes.”