The IDF’s role in vanquishing ISIS was “far greater than meets the public eye,” Eisenkot said. 

By: Yona Schnitzer/TPS and United with Israel Staff

Israel’s contribution to defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group is “far greater than meets the public eye,” IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. General Gadi Eisenkot said Sunday while speaking at a conference on IDF Strategy.

“I can say that today. In recent years I didn’t think it was right to talk about [it], [but] Israel’s deterrence in the region is very significant,” Eisenkot said at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya in a speech that summed up his four years as chief of staff.

Eisenkot referred to the US’ decision to withdraw forces from Syria, calling it a “significant event, but one that must not be exaggerated,” as Israel has maintained its freedom to act in the region.

“For decades, we’ve been facing [the Syrian] front alone. The IDF operated independently throughout this period, including over the last few years with US and Russian forces present,” he said.

According to the Chief of Staff, the Russian military presence in Syria since 2015 has created a new paradigm, in which an open dialogue must be held in order to “prevent friction”.

“The Russian presence in Syria created a new situation and was an influential factor in the way we operated. The way we prepared allowed us to operate for the sake of Israel’s security interests,” he stated.

Eisenkot also spoke about the challenges posed by the Iranian presence in Syria and its military entrenchment in the country, calling it the IDF’s “central” challenge during the past four years.

“We’ve invested significant resources that the average civilian is not aware of. Unfortunately, the public became aware [of the IDF’s anti-Iran operation] when a Russian plane was shot down during an Israeli raid,” he said, referring to the incident on September 17, when Syrian anti-aircraft missiles fired at retreating Israeli jets and instead shot down a Russian military plane carrying 15 crewmen, killing them all.

“Until that day, Israel successfully carried out hundreds of attacks,” Eisenkot said.

An Intelligence Success

Referring to Operation Northern Shield, IDF’s campaign to expose and neutralize Hezbollah’s cross-border attack tunnels, Eisenkot said that “it’s not hard to imagine what would have happened if hundreds of Hezbollah operatives had entered [Israel from Lebanon] through underground attack tunnels. We detected and prepared for this threat in secret.”

The IDF also “acted successfully against the precision capabilities that [Hezbollah] tried to achieve and against their attempts to establish themselves on the Golan Heights front.”

With Iran’s backing and technology, Hezbollah has attempted to convert its mass rocket arsenal into precision missiles, but reports say that Israel has shut down the factories.

As for the terror threat in Judea and Samaria and the recent wave of deadly Palestinian terror attacks, Eisenkot said that “every year over 3,000 potential terrorists are arrested and hundreds of terror attacks are thwarted. This is viewed as an intelligence success that saves Israeli lives.”

Eisenkot will step down and will be replaced by Aviv Kochavi.

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