US military chief makes unannounced visit to Israel as Iranian threat heats up

The top U.S. general made an unannounced visit to Israel on Friday to discuss “regional security challenges” at a time of heightened tensions with Iran.

By Associated Press

United States Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, met with senior Israeli military and intelligence leaders at an air base in southern Israel and held a video conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

The visit came days after an air raid on the Syrian capital, Damascus, suspected to have been carried out by Israel, which killed five foreign fighters, including a member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.

On Friday, IDF helicopters struck several positions of the Syrian army after munitions were fired on the Golan Heights, with the IDF targeting observation posts and intelligence collection systems, according to a statement from the military.

The Lebanese terror group vowed to retaliate for the killing of its fighters in Syria, and in recent days Israel has sent infantry reinforcements to its northern border with Lebanon.

Earlier Friday, the Israeli military said an explosion on the Syrian side of the frontier damaged a building and a vehicle in the Golan Heights. The military declined to provide further details.

Recent weeks have also seen a series of mysterious explosions in Iran, including a blast at a nuclear centrifuge production facility. Milley’s visit also came hours after a U.S. fighter jet passed near an Iranian passenger plane as it flew over Syria.

Iran remains Israel’s greatest threat because of both its support for terror proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and its nuclear program.

Iran continues to attempt to build up a military presence in neighboring Syria, which Israel consistently identifiess as a red line it wil not tolerate.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in recent years targeting Iran’s military presence in Syria, where Tehran is a close ally of the brutal dictator President Bashar Assad in the civil war.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that in his talks with Milley, he emphasized “the need to continue the pressure on Iran and its proxies.”

The Israeli military “is prepared and ready for any scenario and any threat, and I do not suggest our enemies to test us. We have no interest in escalation, but we will do all that is necessary to protect Israeli citizens,” Gantz said.