Netanyahu in Washington Shortly after Israeli Air Force Smashes ISIS-Sinai
When Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stood alongside President Donald Trump at the White House Wednesday, Feb. 15, and praised his host’s great courage in “confronting head-on the malevolent force, radical Islamic terror” which kept the US and Israel under attack, he was not talking idly.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources reveal exclusively here for the first time that the Israeli Air Force had a few days earlier completed the largest air assault ever conducted against the Islamic State in the Middle East.
In the first ten days of February, the IAF concentrated its intelligence and assault resources on breaking the back of the Islamic State’s Sinai branch, the former Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, in an operation sanctioned in advance by Trump and Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.
The aim was to pulverize the ISIS stronghold in its central Sinai mountain fastness with its training camps and arms dumps, as well as decimating its fighting manpower.
After Israeli surveillance marked out the targets, the bombers, fighters and scores of drones went into action around the clock day after day to level every last Islamic terrorist facility. Any vehicle or individual trying to escape on foot was hunted down by the drones cruising overhead and picked off.
When it was over, shortly before Netanyahu set out for Washington, the total number of ISIS fighters in Sinai, formerly estimated at 1,600, had been reduced by half, and many of the survivors were badly injured.
While under attack, ISIS operatives tried to hit back. They managed to fire off just 4 rockets into Eilat, which landed harmlessly in Israel’s southernmost town, just across the border from Egyptian Sinai.
This massive Israeli air operation was designed to accentuate two points
1. To show Presidents Trump and El-Sisi, as well as to other Arab rulers, that ISIS can be destroyed from the air without recourse to large-scale ground forces.
2. That the Israeli Air Force, with the backing of the US President and Middle East rulers, is capable of stealthily reaching into every corner of the region, smashing ISIS targets and returning to home base virtually undetected from beginning to end.
Netanyahu collected a handful of kudos for this operation from President Trump in their closed door conversation in the Oval Office.
But when they got down to talking about Syria, the situation was a lot less clear-cut, largely because Mike Flynn is no longer national security adviser to the president and has been withdrawn from running the show.
Some spadework had been performed before his resignation and the prime minister’s visit.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that decisions were made earlier on the manner of Israel’s integration in US military operations in Syria, following meetings between Trump’s advisers and Israeli military and intelligence officers in Washington and at American military installations in the region, including the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group.
Flynn had coordinated the landing of American troops in Syria with the Defense Ministry in Moscow and the Russian command headquarters in the country.
Wednesday, the Pentagon announced it was “developing proposals for sending an unspecified number of American military personnel into Syria, conventional ground forces to augment the 500 military advisers already there and to coordinate efforts to destroy the Islamic State.”
This statement was intended to inform the Russians and Israelis that the US operation against ISIS in Syria was still on after Flynn’s departure. However, both grasped that much uncertainty was hanging over the combined effort, so long as his shoes were not filled by a permanent replacement.