Iran Seeking to 'Build a Force of 100,000 Ground Troops' in Syria - IDF Chief
Late last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed the Jewish state's commitment to counter Iran in Syria despite Washington's recent announcement to withdraw US troops from the Arab country.
In the past four years, the Israeli army has mainly focused on preventing Iran's "entrenchment in Syria", according to outgoing Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief Gadi Eisenkot. He is due to wrap up his four-year tenure next month.
Eisenkot claimed that Tehran's alleged plan on its permanent military presence in Syria had been endorsed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force.
"The Iranian vision for Syria for the day after [the war]… was to build a force of 100,000 ground troops. There are already 20,000 fighters from Hezbollah, Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and thousands of advisers from Iran", Eisenkot said.
He argued that Iran wants to create a "combined ground, aerial, naval and intelligence capability" in order to build up a "line of military positions along the Golan [border]".
He called the IDF's efforts to contain Iran's alleged military presence in Syria "the large base of the iceberg, which was hidden from the Israeli public's eye".
"We devoted significant resources, intelligence, aerial resources, and other mostly covert operations that average Israelis, even those living in the Golan, were unaware of over the years", Eisenkot pointed out.
He touted the IDF's "independent" fight to destroy what he described as "arms factories in Syria" that he said "combine Syrian infrastructure, Iranian money, and Hezbollah capabilities".
Eisenkot's remarks come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed late last week that Washington's decision to withdraw the 2,000 US troops from Syria will not stop the Jewish state from continuing "to act against Iran's attempt to establish military bases in Syria".
Netanyahu was echoed by Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who assured that the country will "do everything to prevent Iran from gaining foothold in Syria".
Israel has been conducting airstrikes on Syrian territory, in what the Jewish state claims is aimed at destroying Iranian military objects and convoys with weaponry. Tel Aviv insists that Tehran is transferring armaments to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah, which the latter uses against Israel, through the Arab Republic.
Iran, in turn, denies any military presence in Syria apart from military advisors, which were requested by Damascus. Both Tehran and the Syrian government have repeatedly slammed Israeli air raids.
The US announced the pull-out of its forces from Syria on December 19. President Donald Trump said that since obliterating Daesh* was the key goal of the US military in Syria, the troops should now return home following the alleged defeat of the terrorists.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), a terrorist group banned in Russia
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