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Military chief says IDF forces struck ‘third country’ during recent Gaza fighting

Kohavi doesn’t name nation or target, but Arab media reported Iranians and Lebanese killed in large explosion at Houthi camp in Yemen earlier this month

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

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a conference in Ganei Tikva, August 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a conference in Ganei Tikva, August 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Military chief Aviv Kohavi revealed Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces carried out a strike on an unnamed country during the recent round of fighting in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

“Ten days ago, the Israel Defense Forces hit with great precision Tayseer Jabari, who is an arch-terrorist,” Kohavi said at a Federation of Local Authorities conference, referring to the northern Gaza commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, killed during the opening strikes of Operation Breaking Dawn.

“And at the same time [the IDF] carried out a wave of arrests in [the West Bank], and at the same time attacked a third country, and carried out defense along the rest of the country’s borders,” Kohavi said.

Kohavi did not name the “third country” that was hit during that battle between August 5 and 8.

However, Arabic-language media reports have said that on August 7 at least six Iranian and Lebanese advisers were killed in Yemen at a camp run by the Iran-backed Houthi rebel group.  The reports attributed the blast to a Houthi ballistic missile that exploded while being redeployed.

The reports carried by Saudi broadcaster Al Arabiya and Al-Hadath said dozens of Houthi fighters were also killed, and that the blast triggered a second explosion in a nearby factory and weapons dump near Yemen’s capital Sa’ana.

It was not clear from the reports if the Lebanese were linked with Hezbollah, another armed terror group supported by Tehran.

Last year, the IDF deployed air defense batteries around the southern city of Eilat amid concerns of an attack by the Houthis. The Iran-backed group is believed to have missiles and drones that can reach Israel.

Yemen’s brutal war erupted in 2014 after the Houthis seized Sana’a. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition entered the war months later to try to restore the internationally recognized government.

The conflict has in recent years become a regional proxy war that has killed more than 150,000 people, including over 14,500 civilians. It also created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. A ceasefire between the sides took effect in April.

Israel in the past has been willing to strike targets relatively far from its borders, including several airstrikes in Sudan more than a decade ago that targeted shipments from Iran to the Hamas terror group in Gaza via the African nation.

Israel has also carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in the last decade, mostly to stymie attempts by Iranian forces to transfer weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah or establish a foothold on Israel’s northern frontier.

But there were no reports of Israeli strikes in Syria during the three-day battle, with the closest incident being on August 12.

Iran has also previously accused Israel of mounting sabotage attacks against its nuclear facilities and military sites, but there were no such incidents reported during the Gaza operation.

The IDF refers to three levels of direct threats facing Israel as “circles” with the first being small terror groups on Israel’s borders, like Hamas; the second being larger threats, like the Syrian army and Hezbollah; and the “third circle” being countries that do not share a border with Israel, like Iran, Iraq, and Yemen.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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