Israel's Barak heads to Washington

Israel's outgoing Defence Minister Ehud Barak left on Monday for Washington on his second such trip in less than a month, the defence ministry said.

The visit, likely to be one of his last before the minister steps down from politics, comes just days after the White House said that US President Barack Obama would be making his first-ever trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories as president.

It also comes at at a time of heightened tension along Israel's northern border with Lebanon and war-torn Syria.

"Defence Minister Ehud Barak flew this morning for a working meeting in the United States during which he will meet with senior administration officials and with intelligence and defence chiefs," his office said, without saying who he would meet or what would be discussed.

Also expected in Washington this week is Yitzhak Molcho, the personal envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who will prepare for Obama's visit which is expected to take place in late March, press reports said.

Israel's National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror is also expected to travel to Washington next week in connection with the visit, the Israeli media said.

Last week, Israel's armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz spent five days in Washington for talks on the Syrian conflict and Iran's controversial nuclear programme.