Israel allegedly strikes arms depot in Syria, Russia urges restraint

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 27.04.2017 23:50
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 9.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 9.

The Assad regime accused Israel of firing several missiles at a military position near Damascus airport, while Russia called for restraint amid heightened tension

Israel struck an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah near Damascus airport on Thursday, the Assad regime said, targeting weapons sent from Iran via commercial and military cargo planes. Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz would not comment directly on the incident but said any similar strike would be in line with established policy to interrupt the transfer of weapons to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from Iran and Syria.

"It absolutely matches our declared policy, a policy that we also implement," Katz told Israel's Army Radio.

The Kremlin called for restraint after Syria accused Israel of firing several missiles at a military position near the Damascus airport. "We continue to consider that all countries need to refrain from any kind of actions that lead to an increase in tension in this already restive region and call for respect of the sovereignty of Syria," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out several airstrikes in recent years on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions. It rarely comments on such operations. Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah is a steadfast ally of the Assad regime and has sent thousands of its militants to fight alongside government forces in Syria's six-year-long civil war.

Since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in 2011, Israel has occasionally struck positions inside its war-ravaged neighbor, especially after shells allegedly fired from Syrian territory fell inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic incidents of spillover fire that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Bashar al-Assad's forces. Israel has responded with limited reprisals on Syrian positions in response to the errant fire.

Israel seems determined to take action against Hezbollah since Iran, allegedly, had the intention of building a military base near Golan Heights and has been building facilities to manufacture weapons inside Lebanon. Chagai Tzuriel director- general of Israeli Intelligence Ministry, said earlier Iran was building workshops and facilities to make advanced rockets inside Lebanon. He said this was a whole new kind of threat.

Despite the fact that Israel has carried out several air raids on the regime and Hezbollah positions not only in the occupied Golan Heights, but also in the outskirts of Damascus, Tel Aviv has so far avoided encountering Iran over regional conflicts. Instead, it has made several comments on Iran's nuclear power and its tests of long-range missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Again Tel Aviv may choose targeting Iran's proxy in Lebanon since it is worried about an Iranian presence in its neighbor. As long as Iran has the power to dominate Damascus and mobilize Shiite groups, there will be more conflict with Israel.

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