Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel took command of the Israel Air Force on Monday, warning Israel’s enemies not to test the IDF and its capabilities.

Eshel, who previously headed the IDF Planning Directorate, took command of the IAF from Maj.- Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who had served four years in the post.

“We do not rejoice in battle but if Israel will need to draw its sword, the IAF will be the sharpest of blades,” Eshel said.

The appointment of a new air force chief traditionally makes headlines, but this time it is particularly intriguing due to the possibility that the government will order the next commander to oversee a strike on Iran’s well-protected and distant nuclear infrastructure.

Speaking during a ceremony at the Hatzor Air Force Base, Eshel said that the IAF would do everything possible to provide the government with the ability to exhaust diplomatic opportunities but would also be ready for conflict if needed.

“There is no room in the Middle East for the weak,” he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz also spoke at the ceremony, saying: “Looking to the future at the threats that are forming all around us from near and far, it is incumbent upon the IDF and the IAF to be able to respond with strength to any possible scenario.”

Eshel served as deputy commander of the IAF from 2006 to 2008 under Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy. Before that, he was head of the IAF’s Air Wing, commander of the Tel Nof Air Base and head of the IAF Operations Division.

The father of three and graduate of Auburn University in Alabama and the Israeli National Defense College, Eshel volunteered for flight training in 1977. After graduating from the prestigious and arduous course, he quickly climbed the ranks.

He flew A-4 Skyhawks during the first Lebanon War and later became commander of an F-4 Phantom squadron. Eshel became renowned for the IAF’s 2003 Auschwitz flyover.

Within the IDF, he has enjoyed the respect of his counterparts for his close-to three decades of service, during which he spearheaded a revolutionary improvement in the level of inter-operability between the IAF and ground forces.

Eshel recently voiced concern over the possible consequences of Iran’s success in obtaining a nuclear weapon, claiming it would severely impair Israel’s operational freedom. He also warned of the possibility that Syria’s chemical weapons would be obtained by terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

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