IDF chief briefs Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Syrian conflict, Gaza terror tunnels and the situation in Judea and Samaria

IDF troops (archives)

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot briefed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee plenum on Tuesday on a host of issues, including the Russian withdrawal from Syria, the situation in Judea and Samaria, and more.

Addressing Russia`s decision to pull its troops out of Syria, Eizenkot said Israel should attempt to predict how the withdrawal will affect the civil war there. Moscow`s intervention strengthened Syrian President Bashar Assad, who can now take part in the Geneva talks from a position of power, the IDF chief said, noting that Russia will most likely maintain two bases in Syria.

As for the reports regarding Israel`s plan to withdraw IDF forces from Palestinian cities in Area A and transfer security control over them to the Palestinian Authority, Eizenkot stressed that the ongoing negotiations on the matter are not related to possible diplomatic talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The negotiations, he said, are meant to increase the security forces` effectiveness in Area A and examine the possibility of reducing the scope of the IDF`s activity there.

Turning his attention to the wave of terror that has gripped Israel, the army`s top commander said that despite IDF`s edge when it comes to intelligence and operational capabilities, it is not possible to warn IDF forces prior to every stabbing attack carried out by a lone terrorist. Eizenkot noted the importance of the Palestinians` economic well-being as a means of curbing the violence, and said it would therefore be a mistake to prevent Palestinians from working in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria or in industrial zones in the area.

The IDF chief also discussed the threat of the Gaza terror tunnels, saying the army is investing numerous technological and operational resources in order to deal with this threat. Over the past decade, he noted, the IDF has spent more than a billion shekels (half a billion since the end of Operation Protective Edge) in exploring ways to remove the terror tunnel threat.