IDF chief of staff meets Nides following US killing of ISIS leader

The US ambassador and Kohavi discussed issues ranging from Iran and regional challenges to the ongoing investigation into the death of a Palestinian-American.

(L-R) US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
(L-R) US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi met with US Ambassador Thomas Nides for the first time on Friday, amid a multi-nation naval exercise, and discussed the threat posed by Iran.

Kohavi also expressed regret over the death of an elderly Palestinian-American who died after being arrested by IDF troops last month.

An IDF tweet added that the two discussed “upcoming joint exercises, & combating the mutual threat of the Iranian regime.”

The two discussed other security challenges facing Israel and the IDF, and opportunities to expand security cooperation with other countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

The Israeli Navy is currently partaking in the largest American-led naval drills ever held, with 60 other naval fleets, including countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties.

 Mourners attend the funeral of Palestinian-American Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, 80, who was found dead after being detained and handcuffed during an Israeli raid, in Jiljilya village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, January 13, 2022.  (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS) Mourners attend the funeral of Palestinian-American Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, 80, who was found dead after being detained and handcuffed during an Israeli raid, in Jiljilya village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, January 13, 2022. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Known as the International Maritime Exercise (or IMX), more than 9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from more than 60 militaries and international organizations will take part in the exercise, which will focus on unmanned naval systems and the use of artificial intelligence.

The meeting also comes after Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with US 5th fleet Commander Vice-Adm. Brad Cooper in Bahrain. During the visit, Gantz said that “deepening cooperation will help defend against the common enemy of Israel, the United States and Bahrain,” who have common interests and shared values.

Kohavi and Nides also discussed the death of 78-year-old Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad of Jiljilya, a village north of Ramallah, who was found dead on January 12 after he was detained by Israeli troops on his way home.

Kohavi “expressed his regret and made it clear that this incident was a very serious deviation from the IDF’s values,” the military said.

Following a command investigation into his death, two Israeli military officers have been dismissed from their positions and a third, the Netzach Yehuda battalion commander, will be formally censured.

As’ad was a former Milwaukee resident who had lived in the United States for decades before returning to the West Bank 10 years ago.

Following the release of the investigation results last week, the US State Department said it expects a “thorough criminal investigation and full accountability” in the case and that it is looking to receive “additional information on these efforts as soon as possible.”

The chief of staff confirmed to Nides that a criminal investigation into the incident by the Military Police is ongoing, with additional steps likely to be taken against those involved.

Nides’ visit to the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv comes a day after troops from US Central Command (CENTCOM) launched a raid in the northwest Syrian village of Atmeh in the rebel-held Idlib province near the border with Turkey targeting the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi.

Qurayshi became the leader of the terror group after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a similar raid in northwestern Syria in October 2019.

In Bahrain, before heading back to Israel, Gantz said that the operation was an “important, brave and determined operation with quite a few forces” who carried it out “from A-Z.”

While the defense minister refused to go into further details, including whether Israel had been updated prior to the operation, Gantz said that “it was a very important message to the world that when America wants to [do something], it can.

Also in Bahrain was the director of the influential Political-Military Bureau Zohar Plati, who told reporters that the Americans have not reduced their forces in the region, despite shifting their focus to countries like China and Russia.

,“There are tens of thousands of American troops deployed to Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, with planes, THAAD and Patriot missile defense batteries,” he said. “The US continues to be present and remains a significant and influential player in the region.”

While the US Embassy has yet to release a public statement on the meeting, the IDF said that Kohavi “expressed his appreciation for the United States’ commitment to the security of the State of Israel and cooperation between the two nations’ militaries.”

Tal Spungin contributed to this report.