Lebanon to file UN complaint on Israeli overflights during alleged Syria strikes

Damascus tells Security Council attacks wouldn’t have been launched if not for Washington’s ‘unlimited’ support of Israel

Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet takes part in a graduation ceremony for IAF pilots at the Hatzerim base in Israel's Negev desert, on December 26, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet takes part in a graduation ceremony for IAF pilots at the Hatzerim base in Israel's Negev desert, on December 26, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Lebanon will file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over alleged Israeli overflights during airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel, the country’s official news agency reported Wednesday.

The decision was agreed on during a phone call between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos, according to the National News Agency.

Fenainos was quoted telling Hariri a “real humanitarian catastrophe” was averted, referring to accusations made earlier by Russia that the strikes endangered two civilian airliners landing at the time — one in Damascus and the other in Beirut.

Lebanon’s foreign ministry also condemned the reported Israeli actions and called on the international community and Security Council to do the same.

According to Syrian state media, the strikes began around 10 p.m. Tuesday and were carried out by Israel from Lebanon. It said Syria’s air defenses opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down.

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Russia’s defense ministry claimed Syria’s air defenses successfully downed 14 of 16 guided missiles fired during the air raid, adding that six Israeli F-16 jets had taken part in the operation.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement Wednesday accusing Israel of exacerbating the crisis in the country and standing in the way of the government’s war on terrorism. The Syrian regime has branded any rebel groups fighting against its rule as terrorists.

In messages sent out to the UN secretary-general and the president of the UN Security Council, the ministry said that the Israeli airstrike wouldn’t have been launched if it wasn’t for what it called “unlimited” US support for Israel.

The ministry said three Syrian troops were injured in the raid, confirming a number cited earlier by Syrian TV, which also said that weapons warehouses were hit.

Israel has not formally commented on its alleged raid.

Israel’s ties with Moscow took a hit in September when a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard. Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

Screen capture from video showing the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. (YouTube)

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to reestablish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Newsweek reported Wednesday morning that the alleged Israeli airstrike hit several senior Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane bound for Iran, citing a US Defense Department source. The unnamed source told the magazine he had received the information from top Israeli military brass.

He said strategic Iranian munitions were also targeted, including advanced GPS components for weaponry.

However, that report was later denied by Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen, widely regarded as pro-Hezbollah, which said no senior members of the terror group were hurt.

Syrian media said Wednesday morning that Israel hit a base used by Hezbollah in Al-Dimas, a weapons depot at a base belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th division in Sabura and the military’s 10th Division command in Qatana.

Illustrative image of a tank flying the Hezbollah terror group’s flag seen in the Qara area in Syria’s Qalamoun region on August 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)

Israel said it deployed air defenses against a missile fired from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel the alleged airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday that Israel would continue to strike Iranian targets in Syria and said US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull American troops from the country would not affect operations.

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