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IDF chief Kohavi heads to France and Poland to discuss Iranian threat, Hezbollah

Military head to meet French and Polish counterparts during official visit, amid heightened tensions on northern border with Iran-backed terror group ramping up threats

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi meets several chiefs of staff on the sidelines of a conference at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, September 15, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi meets several chiefs of staff on the sidelines of a conference at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, September 15, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Military chief Aviv Kohavi is scheduled to travel to France and Poland next week to meet with his counterparts from the two European nations and discuss the Iranian threat and Hezbollah, the Israel Defense Forces said Saturday.

In a statement, the IDF said the first official visits were “taking place as part of the strengthening of military cooperation between the IDF and the Polish and French Armed Forces.”

Kohavi is to meet the chief of the Polish Armed Forces, Rajmund Andrzejczak, on Monday, and with the chief of the French Armed Forces, Thierry Burkhard, on Wednesday.

Andrzejczak, among nine other chiefs of staff, participated in the IDF’s “International Operational Innovation Conference” in Israel last week. On the sidelines of the conference, Kohavi sat down with Andrzejczak for a brief courtesy meeting.

In Poland, Kohavi will also visit the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, and hold a series of meetings with other officers of the Polish military “as part of the cooperation between the two militaries,” the IDF said.

In France, aside from Burkhard, Kohavi will also meet other senior French military officials.

“During the visit, issues related to regional challenges will be discussed, including the threat of the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East, the weaponization of the Hezbollah terrorist army and the security challenges on the Lebanese border,” the IDF statement said.

France and Lebanon have close relations, as the Middle Eastern country was once part of the French colonial empire in the early 20th century.

Kohavi is to depart Sunday and will return to Israel on Thursday, according to a schedule published by the IDF. The visits to both nations are a first for Kohavi since he entered his role nearly four years ago.

In his absence, Deputy Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi will carry out the military chief’s responsibilities in Israel, the IDF said.

The meetings come amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, as the latter has threatened Israeli gas installations amid US-mediated talks over a maritime dispute.

A sea-based Iron Dome air defense system is seen on a Navy ship, guarding the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, in footage published by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The dispute, which involves competing claims over offshore gas fields, escalated in June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field, which is partly claimed by Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, whose terror group launched four unarmed drones toward the Karish field in July, issued a fresh threat on Saturday, warning Israel against beginning extraction.

“We are following up on the negotiations and all our eyes are on Karish and our missiles are locked on Karish,” Nasrallah said. “As long as extraction has not started, there is a chance for solutions.”

Energean, a London-listed company that has the license to develop Karish, said September 8 that it was “on track to deliver [the] first gas from the Karish development project within weeks.”

On Friday, the Energy Ministry said it “was preparing to connect the Karish reservoir to the Israeli system…. As part of the next stage of the project, planned for the upcoming days, the rig and natural transmission system from the rig to the national network will be tested.”

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, gives a televised speech for the Shiite commemoration of Arbaeen, September 17, 2022. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Both countries claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon claims that the Karish gas field is in the disputed territory, while Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.

Hezbollah remains vociferously opposed to any concessions to Israel.

The Iran-backed terror group and Israel last fought a war in 2006. Beirut and Jerusalem have no diplomatic relations and the two countries are separated by the UN-patrolled ceasefire line.

In June, the IDF held a major military exercise in Cyprus, simulating a ground offensive deep inside Lebanon in a potential war against the Iran-backed group.

Hezbollah has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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