EU, British PM back Israel’s right to defend itself from Iranian strikes
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EU, British PM back Israel’s right to defend itself from Iranian strikes

UN secretary general urges ‘immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions’ as Security Council members refuse to call emergency meeting

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini addresses a press conference during a Foreign Ministers meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on March 19, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini addresses a press conference during a Foreign Ministers meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on March 19, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

The European Union on Thursday backed Israel’s right to defend itself and called on “all regional actors to show restraint” after widespread strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, in response to Iranian rockets fired towards the Golan Heights.

“Reports about last night’s Iranian attacks against Israeli army posts from inside Syria to which Israel responded by striking against Iranian targets in Syria are extremely worrying,” the European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement.

“As the EU has said repeatedly, Israel has the right to defend itself,” the statement added.

“At the same time, we call on all regional actors to show restraint and avoid any escalation, which could further undermine regional stability.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May also said she “strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression” in a call Thursday evening with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, her office said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) poses with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside 10 Downing Street in London on November 2, 2017.(AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)

A spokesperson said May condemned the Iranian rocket attacks against Israeli forces and reiterated Downing Street’s earlier call on Iran to refrain from any further attacks and for calm on all sides.

Both leaders were said to agree it was “vital for the international community to continue working together to counter Iran’s destabilizing regional activity, and for Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent further Iranian attacks.”

Netanyahu’s office said he expressed his appreciation for May’s position.

Iranian forces fired some 20 rockets at northern Israeli military bases from southern Syria just after midnight Wednesday. The IDF said it suffered no casualties, either on the ground or in the air, and that no rockets fired from Syria  hit Israeli territory.

The IDF hit over 50 targets in Syria in overnight strikes in response, including Iranian intelligence sites, logistic centers, weapons depots, and military bases operated by the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.

Anti-aircraft fire rises into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, following what the Israeli military said was an Iranian barrage of rockets against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

The exchange was the largest-ever direct clash between the Iranian forces and the IDF, and appeared to be the largest exchange involving Israel in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for an “immediate halt to all hostile acts” in the Middle East.

In his statement, Guterres also called on the Security Council to “remain actively seized of the matter and shoulder its responsibilities” under the UN Charter.

“The Secretary-General urges an immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region already embroiled in terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians,” a spokesman for Guterres said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres gives a speech at the 54th Munich Security Conference on February 16, 2018, in Munich, Germany. (AFP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)

None of the Security Council’s 15 members were ready to call an emergency meeting on the situation — which has prompted calls for restraint from the international community.

When asked if they would call an emergency meeting, ambassadors from Poland, Russia, France and Britain all responded: “Not at this point.”

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, sent letters to the Security Council and the secretary-general calling for condemnation of “Iran’s acts of aggression.” He also asked the Security Council to “demand that Iran remove its military presence from Syria.”

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