Liberman: Rockets from Syria were launched by Hezbollah
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Liberman: Rockets from Syria were launched by Hezbollah

Defense minister calls on Russia ‘to restrain’ Lebanese terror group, says Israel holds Assad regime responsible for any fire from country

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends an event of his Yisrael Beytenu party in Jerusalem on September 13, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends an event of his Yisrael Beytenu party in Jerusalem on September 13, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said four rockets fired from Syria that landed in the Golan Heights over the weekend were intentionally fired at Israel by the Hezbollah terror group and were not spillover from the fighting in Syria.

“We are not talking about spillover. This is directed fire carried out by Hezbollah with [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad’s permission, in an attempt to draw us into a conflict,” said Liberman at a faction meeting for his Yisrael Beytenu party in the Knesset.

The defense minister said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah personally ordered the firing of the rockets and said Israel holds Syria responsible for what happens in the territory under their control.

“We want to say that we see Assad as responsible for any rocket fire from his territory,” he said.

He also called on Russia, one of the Assad’s regime’s top military backers, “to restrain Hezbollah” and said the incident over the weekend “was another example of why [Hezbollah] needs to be removed from the area as quickly as possible.”

Israeli police officers patrol near the border with Syria in the Golan Heights after four projectiles hit the area early on October 21, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces initially said the rockets that landed in the Golan early Saturday were spillover from the fighting in Syria. Israel fired back into Syria, hitting three rocket launchers, in response to the rocket fire and warned that further fire would prompt a more intensive response.

Later Saturday, however, military sources said the rockets appeared to have been deliberately fired at Israel.

Channel 2 reported Saturday that although the IDF officially referred to “spillover” fire in its statements, there was “a growing sense” in the army that the Syrian fire was deliberate.

There was no fighting going on in Syria at the time of the fire, the TV report said. It added that the area from which the rockets were fired is under the control of the Syrian army. And it noted that the projectiles fell deep inside Israeli territory on the Golan Heights, one after the other, rather than close to the border.

The incident capped a week of tensions on the northern border.

Last Monday, the Syrian army launched an interceptor missile at Israeli Air Force reconnaissance aircraft, which the IDF says were flying over Lebanon. In response, Israel sent out a second sortie of F-16 fighter jets to bomb an anti-aircraft battery that it believed launched the missile.

The incident occurred as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Israel to meet with Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Liberman told Shoigu that Israel will take action against Iran and its proxies if they continue to entrench themselves along the Syrian border.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, Avigdor Liberman, center, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot take part in an honor guard at the Israeli army’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 16, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

Iran’s Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri, who spent several days in Syria last week touring war zones and meeting with high-level officials, on Wednesday said Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies. “We cannot accept a situation where the Zionist entity attacks Syria from the ground and the air,” he said.

At the conclusion of his visit on Saturday, he signed a memorandum of understanding with Syrian officials in which the two allies announced plans for tighter military cooperation and coordination — notably against Israel. The sides agreed to expand cooperation on intelligence, training, technology and against what they called “Zionist-American schemes,” the Ynet news website reported.

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