Defense minister admits for first time Israel behind November Syria strike
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Defense minister admits for first time Israel behind November Syria strike

Bennett reveals during TV interview that IDF ‘struck in Damascus’ on November 12, an hour after attack in Gaza that touched off a round of violence

Security forces and municipality workers outside a building targeted by an airstrike in the Syrian capital Damascus' Mazzeh neighborhood overnight on November 12, 2019. (LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)
Security forces and municipality workers outside a building targeted by an airstrike in the Syrian capital Damascus' Mazzeh neighborhood overnight on November 12, 2019. (LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett revealed in a television interview broadcast Saturday for the first time that Israel was behind an airstrike in Syria in November that killed the son of a senior commander of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

The unsuccessful attempt to kill Akram al-Ajouri had come less than an hour after Israel killed PIJ terror chief Baha Abu al-Ata in his home in the Gaza Strip, sparking an intense round of escalation during which hundreds of rockets were fired at Israeli civilian communities.

The Israel Defense Forces and the government did not comment at the time on the Syria strike, and it has thus far only been attributed to Israel by the PIJ, Syria and foreign reports.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks.

However, Bennett, who became defense minister just after the November 12 strikes, made the admission during a Channel 12 interview, which was recorded on Friday.

“As I entered the position we eliminated Baha [abu al-Ata] and struck in Damascus,” he said. “I am explaining that thus far, when they fired [rockets] from Gaza, we responded in Gaza. When they fired from Gaza we would not eliminate terrorists from Damascus.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is interviewed by Channel 12’s Rina Matzliah on February 28, 2020. (Screen capture: Channel 12)

At the time, the PIJ said Ajouri’s home in Damascus had been bombed overnight and that he survived the attack, but his son was killed.

Two rockets targeted the home of al-Ajouri, “killing his son Muadh and another person,” the Syrian SANA state news agency said. Ajouri’s bodyguard was also killed, Hebrew-language media reported. Six others were reportedly injured.

Syrian authorities said air defenses fired at a “hostile target” during the bombing of the building in the Mezzeh area of the capital. It said the building was a civilian structure adjacent to the Lebanese embassy.

Later in the Channel 12 interview, Bennett stormed out of the studio, accusing the interviewer of trying to hurt his party ahead of next week’s general elections.

Israel goes to the polls for a third time in less than a year on Monday, with Yamina projected to win eight-nine Knesset seats.

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