Netanyahu again warns Iran on presence in Syria

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published 28.08.2017 23:19

Israel has repeated its claim that Iran had been building sites in Syria to manufacture missiles that could target Israeli positions. Tel Aviv has warned Iran and the Syrian regime is to hit certain positions to protect itself from a possible attack. While Iranian and Syrian officials have remained silent, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his claim that Iran's ultimate aim is to destroy Israel. At the start of a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Netanyahu said Iran was turning Syria into a "base of military entrenchment as part of its declared goal to eradicate Israel. … It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles toward that end, in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept."

His statements come after the Israeli Defense Ministry declared that it signed a deal to buy an additional 17 stealth F-35 U.S.-made fighter jets. The purchase is part of a deal to buy 50 warplanes, the first of which had arrived in December. The addition of 50 warplanes is seen as an attempt to consolidate its air power in the region. Israel has previously accused Iran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah of planning to orchestrate missile attacks on Israel. Israeli jets have also targeted Syria several times, destroying some facilities.

Netanyahu made a statement on Wednesday during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, claiming that Israel would bomb Bashar Assad's palace in Damascus unless Iran gives up its activities. "A senior Israeli official warned the Russian government that if Iran continues to extend its reach in Syria, Israel will bomb Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace in Damascus, according to reports in Arab media. Israel also warned that if serious changes do not happen in the region, Israel will make sure the ceasefire deal, reached by the United States and Russia in Astana, Kazakhstan, will be nullified," the Jerusalem Post reported last week.

U.S. inaction in Syria apparently disturbs Israel as Iran has gained a very strong position in the country. Since the civil war broke out, Israel has supported Assad's removal and made warnings about the advancement of Iran and its proxies. Then U.S. President Barack Obama has been reluctant to make any step to enter the war but started supporting the PKK's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in the war against Daesh. When Ankara launched a military operation against Daesh, there was no U.S. support. In addition, while Iran has been strengthening its position in Syria, U.S.-Israeli relations had run aground over disputes between Obama and Netanyahu.Recent reports say that Israel seeks an alliance against Iran in the region. Apparently, its first allies would be the Gulf countries, especially the United Arab Emirates. However, its relations with Turkey, despite tensions, have stabilized in the recent months. The Iranian threat puts the two countries closer, yet Israel's undeclared support for the PYD poses trouble.

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