Saturday, 26 May, 2018

World leaders issue conflicting messages around Israel's attack in Syria

UN Chief Guterres Calls For Immediate De-Escalation In Syria Netanyahu: Rules of game in Syria have not changed
Andrew Cummings | 11 February, 2018, 05:16

Netanyahu has been seeking to persuade Russian Federation to limit Iran's presence near Israeli territory and to stop it from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.

Israel is believed to have carried out several raids inside Syria since 2013, mostly targeting its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah, a key ally of the Syrian government. However, Israel also had little reason to support the Islamic State or al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist groups that became the Syrian government's primary rivals.

The latest incident marks the heightening of tension between Israel and Syria. These interventions generally were not announced publicly and were small in scale.

"Over 1,000 civilian casualties from airstrikes were reported in the first week of February alone" in the Syrian government offensives. Many in Israel feared not only that Iran and its allies would entrench themselves near the Israeli border but that Hezbollah had been using the Syrian fighting as a training and that Iran might help the militia upgrade to the use of precision-guided missiles.

Netanyahu says he informed Putin of Israel's intention to continue defending itself against any aggression and to prevent Iran from establishing a presence "in Syria or anywhere else".

Why is what happened now different from previous Israeli strikes? "The risk is a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran that will encompass Syria and Lebanon".

They then "targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the UAV into Israeli airspace", military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus tweeted. The Israeli military said that early assessments showed it was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but could not immediately confirm that.

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Both pilots aboard the Israeli jet are safe, the Israeli army said, although one pilot was severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation from the plane.

The raids came after an Israeli F-16 was brought down as it returned to Israel on Saturday morning.

"We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation", Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Israel struck 12 targets in Syria, including four Iranian targets, in a "large-scale attack" after the drone infiltration, the Israel Defense Forces said. Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, second-in-command of Israel's air force, told Haaretz newspaper that these strikes were "the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses" since the 1982 Lebanon War. The United Nations has continued to reject Israel's claims to the region.

BEN-DOR EXPECTS Saturday's developments to trigger intensive Russian diplomacy to find a formula on the Iranian presence in Syria acceptable to both Israel and Iran. Israel, which considers Iran its most potent enemy in the region, has been lobbying world powers - so far, apparently, without success - to distance these forces from the border areas.

Russia, which has troops based at T4 military base, reacted with anger.

"The question is whether the Iranians will respond or lower the fire at this stage", said Ephraim Kam, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. Awkwardly, late last month, Netanyahu visited Moscow to push Russian Federation to rein in its Iranian allies in Syria. This past week, USA warplanes bombed pro-government forces after they allegedly advanced on US -backed forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

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