Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel would be victorious in its “ongoing campaign” against Iran, amid warnings from Jerusalem that the Islamic Republic’s continued military presence in Syria would not be tolerated.
“I have established a basic principle: Whoever strikes us, we are going to strike them,” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew-language video uploaded to his social media accounts.
“We are in the midst of an ongoing campaign and we are going to win it,” he said, a day after Israel mounted dozens of strikes on Iranian military sites in Syria in response to an Iranian missile barrage directed at northern Israel.
Netanyahu said the IDF “reacted accordingly” by striking over 50 Iranian military targets in the early Thursday morning raids.
He also thanked the US, Germany, UK and France for supporting “our right to act and defend ourselves against the Iranian aggression.”
Earlier on Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to “throw” Iranian forces out of his country, warning the continued presence of the Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force would only cause trouble.
“I want to use this opportunity to give Assad a message,” he said while visiting residents in the northern city of Katzrin. “Throw out the Iranians, throw out Qassem Soleimani and the Quds force. They don’t help you, they only harm you, and their presence causes only problems and damage.”
Liberman underscored that Israel was not seeking an escalation with Tehran. “We did not come to the Iranian border, they came here,” he said.
Israel has long warned it will not accept Iran entrenching itself militarily in neighboring Syria, where the Islamic Republic backs Assad’s regime in the country’s seven-year civil war.
On Thursday, Netanyahu also urged Assad to keep Syria out of the fight, and warned Tehran that it “crossed a line” by launching some 20 rockets at northern Israeli military bases from southern Syria just after midnight on early Thursday. The IDF said it suffered no casualties, either on the ground or in the air, and that no rockets fired from Syria made impact in Israeli territory. Four were intercepted by Iron Dome, and the other 16 fell short.
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.
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.
Among the sites hit were Syrian air defenses, and Netanyahu said that was only because Assad had ignored his warning.
“Yesterday I conveyed a clear message to the Assad regime: Our activity is directed against Iranian targets in Syria. But if the Syrian army takes action against us, we will act against it,” Netanyahu warned in a Hebrew-language video Thursday. “That is exactly what happened yesterday — Syrian army batteries launched ground-to-air missiles against us, and therefore we hit them.”