Israel’s ability to deter enemies is strong, but on the other hand terror is still a challenge, Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said on Wednesday during remarks at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
“We call this period in time the ‘era of fire’ in light of the amount of missiles and rockets we face as a constant threat,” Kochavi said. “There are about 170,000 rockets and missiles that threaten Israel.”
Kochavi added that the country was “surrounded 360 degrees with active enemies. The conventional threats have not disappeared.”
Speaking of the challenges of guarding Israel’s borders, however, the intelligence chief said that neighboring countries had little interest in hostilities.
“The countries around us are busy with themselves, they have less funds to start a war,” he explained. “There is no question that there is a decrease in such threats but they have not given up.”
Regarding Egypt, Kochavi said that “any retreat of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region is significant for Israel.”
He also said that Syria had become a vacuum for the Islamic Jihad and that some of the al-Qaida militants going there to fight had bases in neighboring Turkey and could easily access Europe from the NATO member state. He stressed that very few countries in the region fully control all of their land and all of their borders.
Presenting a map of the Middle East marked with areas of al-Qaida presence, Kochavi told the conference that al-Qaida fighters from around the world enter Syria weekly “but they do not stay.”
A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly denied his country was providing shelter or backing to al-Qaida- linked groups in Syria.
Kochavi declined a request by Reuters to give specific numbers, but his spokeswoman said the map showed the relative strength and location of al-Qaida bases, which appeared to be in the Karaman, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa provinces.
“Syria is projecting its conflict to the whole region,” he said. “Those blotches [on the map] in Turkey are no mistake by the graphic artist, and it is a short way from there into Europe.”
Taken together, the spots on the map were about half the size of the blotch in the Sinai peninsula, which Kochavi said was home to about 200 jihadists.
He added that the cyber world offered a great opportunity for Israel’s growth, but the threat of cyber warfare is growing significantly and there have been many attacks on the security establishment.