Army spokesperson Moti Almoz confirmed on Monday that the army believes Sunday’s clash between IDF troops and members of an Islamic State-affiliate in Syria was not part of a larger push by the Sunni terror group.
The remark came in an interview with the London-based Elaph newspaper, an outlet owned by a businessman in Saudi Arabia, which has grown closer to Israel over mutual fears of Iranian hegemony in the region.
As The Times of Israel reported Sunday, the prevailing theory is that the clash, which resulted in Israeli killing four members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Brigade, most likely did not represent a change in IS policy, though it could have been an attempt to test the IDF or score a public relations win.
In response to the question whether he thought IS was planning a “new stage” in the Golan, Almoz answered: “I do not think so, and we do not see any change with IS or any other faction in Syria,” he told the newspaper.
However, he added, “The operation [was carried out] perhaps to examine our capabilities and our preparedness. It was no coincidence [it was carried out] Sunday morning, after the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, in which we usually have a quiet day and a little routine military action.”
Almoz also discussed the Hamas terrorist group, encouraging it to recall the three Gaza campaigns in recent years, waged by Israel in an effort to stem rocket fire and tunneling, which have devastated large swaths of the territory.
“During five years and three military operations, every hundred meters saw Israel’s military capability and what it might do next time. Is this what the other side wants?” Almoz told the Arabic language news outlet, apparently referring to the Hamas terrorist group.
Almoz added that Tehran has not become more moderate or tame following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called Iran nuclear deal.
“Iran has not changed, not before the agreement on the nuclear program or after it. Its objective remains the same, which is to maintain a foothold in the region and keep the fire of terrorism burning,” Almoz said.
“We know that, and we are facing it,” he said.
Riyadh, which sees Shiite Iran as a major regional threat, was one of several Sunni states to join Israel in opposition to the agreement.
Almoz was the latest high-profile Israeli to speak to Elaph, which has run interviews with IDF generals, ministers, Knesset members and diplomats in a sign of Israel’s wish to forge ties with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states in recent years.
An earlier version of the story stated that Almoz issued a warning to Iran, with the devastation in Gaza as a reminder of Israel’s military power. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said this was an incorrect reading of Almoz’s remarks, that his comments on the Gaza Strip were not related to Iran.