Mon, Feb 12, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Israeli airstrikes sent clear message to Iran: minister

‘INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES’:Israel hit concealed sites and it knows everything that is going on in Syria, which was proven by the airstrikes, minister Israel Katz said

AP, JERUSALEM

Children look at the remains of a missile that crashed in Alonei Abba in northern Israel on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Israel Katz yesterday said that by striking key Iranian sites in Syria, Israel sent a clear message to Tehran that it would not tolerate an Iranian military foothold on its doorstep and would act decisively to counter any further provocations.

The wave of airstrikes came after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone that had infiltrated its airspace and an Israeli F-16 warplane was on Saturday downed upon its return from Syria.

It was Israel’s most serious engagement in neighboring Syria since fighting there began in 2011 — and the most devastating air assault on the country in decades.

The military said it destroyed the drone’s Iranian launching site along with four additional Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, including the Syrian military’s main command and control bunker.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, yesterday said that at least six Syrian troops and allied militiamen were killed in the airstrikes.

The six included Syrian troops as well as Syrian and non-Syrian allied troops, the observatory said.

“They, and we, know what we hit and it will take them some time for them to digest, understand and ask how Israel knew how to hit those sites,” Katz told Israel’s Army Radio. “These were concealed sites and we have intelligence agencies and the ability to know everything that is going on there and yesterday we proved that.”

In Saturday’s attacks, the Israeli jets came under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire and the pilots of one of the F-16s had to eject and the plane crashed in northern Israel.

One pilot was seriously wounded and the other one lightly.

Israel would not confirm whether its aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.

Israel has recently issued several stern warnings about the increased Iranian involvement along its borders with Syria and Lebanon, which it attributes to Iran’s growing confidence following Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s successes in the Syrian civil war, thanks to support by main allies Russia and Iran.

Israel fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to the Lebanese Hezbollah — an Iran-backed Shiite militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Hezbollah’s fighters are also fighting on al-Assad’s side in the Syrian civil war.

Though Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, it has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah dozens of times since 2012.

Israel has also shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria, but the capture of an Iranian drone and the direct targeting of Iranian sites in response marked a dramatic escalation in the Israeli retaliation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held several consultations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backs al-Assad’s government and maintains a large military presence in Syria.

Following the Israeli strikes they spoke again on Saturday, with Netanyahu conveying Israel’s determination to counter Iran’s intentions.

Still, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs appeared to criticize Israel’s actions by calling for restraint and respecting Syria’s sovereignty.

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