by Jean-Luc Renaudie
Agence France Presse
JERUSALEM, Israel (AFP) — Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air protection systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes finishing up strikes.
“The next time the Syrians use their air defence systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Lieberman mentioned on Israeli public radio.
Israeli warplanes hit a number of targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes focused weapons certain for Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah motion.
Syria’s army mentioned it had downed one of many Israeli planes and hit one other as they have been finishing up the pre-dawn strikes close to the famed desert metropolis of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.
The Israeli army denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian authorities has made comparable claims prior to now.
An Israeli military assertion mentioned “several anti-aircraft missiles” have been fired following the raid however that none hit their targets.
One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow air defence system, Israeli media reported.
It was essentially the most severe incident between the 2 nations because the Syrian civil battle started six years in the past.
In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the primary time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 battle with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.
“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Lieberman mentioned Sunday.
“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hezbollah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do.”
Lieberman mentioned he didn’t want “to interfere in the Syrian civil war or provoke a confrontation with the Russians” however that Israel’s safety would stay his prime precedence.
Russia and Israel’s arch-foe Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime within the battle. Israel opposes Assad, however has sought to keep away from being dragged into the battle.
Israel doesn’t normally affirm or deny particular person raids, nevertheless it was led to accomplish that this time by the circumstances of the incident, together with the firing of the Arrow, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz informed AFP.
He mentioned he believed Assad responded extra strongly this time as a result of he feels more and more assured.
Assad’s place has been strengthened in current months along with his forces reclaiming the entire of Syria’s second metropolis Aleppo, in addition to having fun with persevering with Russian assist.
“He is trying to change the rules. We will not agree to change the rules,” Katz mentioned.
He reiterated what Israel calls its “red lines,” together with not permitting superior weapons to be provided to Hezbollah and stopping the Golan Heights from getting used as a entrance in opposition to it.
Netanyahu has held a collection of conferences with Russian President Vladimir Putin in current months to set up a mechanism to keep away from unintended clashes between their forces in Syria.
A “hotline” has been arrange between the 2 nations, however Katz mentioned Russia will not be notified upfront of an Israeli strike.
“No one knows before what we are doing,” he mentioned.
“We are a sovereign country that acts to protect our security interests.”
He declined to remark intimately on how the “hotline” with Russia labored, however expressed confidence the 2 nations might proceed to coordinate regardless of their differing pursuits.
Israel seized many of the Golan Heights from Syria within the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a transfer by no means recognised by the worldwide neighborhood.
Israel and Syria are nonetheless technically at battle, although the border had remained largely quiet for many years till 2011 when the Syrian battle started.
© Agence France-Presse