Eisenkot heads to DC to meet other army chiefs on counter-terrorism
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Eisenkot heads to DC to meet other army chiefs on counter-terrorism

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman completes visit to Washington for meetings with US counterparts on Syria, Iran

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

US Military Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford (right)meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
US Military Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford (right)meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot set out for Washington, DC, on Saturday to meet with the heads of other world militaries for a counter-terrorism conference hosted by the United States, the army said.

Eisenkot’s four-day trip comes just after a visit by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the American capital, in which he met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis and US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

In Washington, Eisenkot is scheduled to meet with military leaders from all over the world at the second annual conference of chiefs of staff, which is organized by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.

Israel’s defense attaché to the US, Maj. Gen. Mickey Edelstein, and the head of the IDF’s international relations unit, Brig. Gen. Erez Maisel, will join Eisenkot on the visit.

This is the first year that Israel was invited to take part in the conference.

“During these meetings the commanders will discuss shared security challenges, situation assessments, security related developments in the Middle East and military collaborations,” the IDF said.

Eisenkot will also meet with other American defense officials, as well as the heads of US European Command (EUCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM).

He is also scheduled to visit a joint exercise by the IDF and US Cyber Command on electronic warfare.

In Eisenkot’s absence, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi will be in control of the military.

Defense Minister Liberman flew to Washington on Wednesday in order to meet with American defense officials about Syria and the growing Iranian presence there.

The defense minister is expected to remain in the US until Sunday, when he will fly back to Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends an event of his Yisrael Beytenu party in Jerusalem, September 13, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Liberman’s trip to the US came on the heels of a visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during which the two also discussed the situation in civil war in Syria.

Liberman told Shoigu that Israel will take action against Iran and its proxies if they continue to entrench themselves along the Syrian border.

Over the past week, tensions have been on the rise in northern Israel, as the Syrian and Israeli militaries exchanged fire.

On Monday, the Syrian army launched an interceptor missile at Israeli Air Force reconnaissance aircraft, which the IDF says were flying over Lebanon. In response, Israel sent out a second sortie of F-16 fighter jets to bomb an anti-aircraft battery that it believed launched the missile.

On Thursday, a mortar shell launched from Syria struck the Golan Heights in an apparent case of errant fire, which nevertheless prompted the IDF to respond with a barrage on the source of the projectile fire.

Things heated up yet again on Saturday morning, when four rockets from Syria hit deep inside Israeli territory in what some military sources said may have been a deliberate attack in the guise of accidental spillover.

They landed in open ground, and caused no injury or damage. One of them landed close to an Israeli residential area.

The IDF retaliated to Saturday’s rocket fire by bombarding three Syrian military rocket launchers.

Syria, in turn, claimed that Israel had “coordinated” with terror groups, inviting them to fire into Israel as a pretext for the IDF response, and it sent letters of complaint to the United Nations.

Editor’s note: The article initially said, incorrectly, that Liberman and Eisenkot’s trips overlapped. In fact, Liberman left Washington before Eisenkot arrived.

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