Amid Syria tensions, IDF chief to visit Poland for Holocaust Remembrance Day
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Amid Syria tensions, IDF chief to visit Poland for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Eisenkot to march alongside President Rivlin, senior security officials for memorial ceremony Thursday at Birkenau death camp

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF Chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot leads a military delegation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland on April 23, 2017, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot leads a military delegation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland on April 23, 2017, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot will travel to Poland this week to take part in a major Holocaust Remembrance Day event there on Thursday, amid ongoing tensions on Israel’s northern border, the army confirmed on Wednesday.

It will be Eisenkot’s second time participating in the “March of the Living.” This year, the trip will be led by President Reuven Rivlin. The heads of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and Shin Bet security service will also attend.

There was speculation that Eisenkot could back out of the planned trip in light of the security situation on the northern border, following an airstrike on a Syrian air base on Monday that was attributed to the Israeli military.

On Thursday, Rivlin will lead over 10,000 people in a three-kilometer (two-mile) march from the main Auschwitz concentration camp to the Birkenau extermination camp, which housed the gassing chambers and crematoria.

The Nazis killed some 1.1 million people at the camp, mostly Jews, but also Russians, Roma, Poles and members of other nationalities.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated each year by Israel and Jews around the world on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It falls exactly one week before Israel’s Independence Day, on the fifth day of the Jewish month of Iyar.

The predawn strike on Monday reportedly killed 14 people. Semi-official Iranian media outlets reported that at least seven members of Iran’s military were among the dead.

Syria, Russia and Iran all said that Israel was behind the attack. Anonymous US officials also claimed Israel had carried it out, telling local journalists that their Israeli counterparts had notified them ahead of time.

Israel has refused to comment on the matter, keeping with its policy of ambiguity regarding airstrikes outside the country’s borders.

Israeli officials did not appear to be taking the threat of a retaliatory attack lightly — whether by Iran, or its proxy, the Hezbollah terrorist group — and Israel’s military was put on high alert.

On Tuesday, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened Israel.

“The crimes will not remain unanswered,” Ali Akbar Velayati said during a visit to Syria, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

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