After Syria unsuccessfully tried to shoot down IAF planes with an anti-aircraft missiles, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot assured Tuesday that Israel will continue to "prevent terrorist groups from gaining strength or acquiring advanced weapons.”
Speaking at the Meir Dagan Conference at the Netanya Academic College, Lt. Gen. Eisenkot said Israel was "smart to have an official stance of non-involvement (in the civil war in Syria). Even with a six-year long chaotic civil war with millions of casualties and refugees, we kept our border (with Syria) quiet."
Eisenkot said that Hezbollah is in the midst of a “deep internal and economic crisis,” and that its rank and file members have apparently only leaned over the past two weeks that their military commander, Mustafa Badreddine, had been killed, allegedly at the order of Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who was pressured to do it by Iran, which was unhappy with Badreddine and wanted him removed from the battlefield.
"According to (media) reports, he was killed by his superiors, which points to the extent of the cruelty, complexity and tension between Hezbollah and its patron Iran," Eisenkot said, noting that "These reports corresponded with the information we have and with our assessment."
Hezbollah has maintained that Badreddine was killed at one of its bases near Damascus airport by artillery shelling by insurgent groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. A war monitoring group said there had been no rebel shelling in that area at the time.
“Hezbollah is the number one challenge facing the IDF,” he said, adding that Israel has been closely monitoring “the regular use of tactical chemical weapons in the fighting in Syria.”
The IDF chief then elaborated, noting the four big threats to Israel.
"The first is the conventional, which Israel is dealing with since it was established. Militaries with air force capabilities are still an existing threat, even if it has diminished in recent years because of the changes in the Middle East and our peace agreements.
"The second is the non-conventional: the nuclear threat we face from Iran, and the chemical and biological weapons being used in the conflict in Syria.
"The third is the sub-conventional: terrorism, guerrilla warfare, underground tunnels and, as we're recently seeing, the rising political capabilities that terror organizations are starting to have.
"The fourth is cyber warfare, a recently new threat whose power we are only now starting to see. We've made changes to our level of preparedness, both on the military and state levels. We have made much progress in our defense and attack capabilities in the cyber department, out of the understanding that this threat will only grow in the near future."
Eisenkot noted that the threats Israel faces are changing from organized militaries to terror organizations, saying "we see it in the north with Hezbollah, and in the south with Hamas, and with many other organizations that sprouted seemingly out of thin air.
"We didn't even know how to pronounce the name Daesh (the Arabic name for ISIS) when suddenly it became one of the biggest threats to us, the Middle East, and the world in general."
Eisenkot said that the American and Russian involvement in Syria "has significantly influence the IDF's activities."
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)