Netanyahu: Syria truce must guarantee security for Israel
While ceasefire is important ‘from a humane standpoint,’ it should also block ‘Iranian aggression,’ prime minister says
Two days into a shaky ceasefire in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that while Israel was glad about the prospect of an end to hostilities there, any long-term solution had to provide security for the Jewish state as well.
“We welcome the efforts to attain a stable, long-term and real ceasefire in Syria,” he told reporters at the opening of the weekly cabinet in Jerusalem. “Anything that stops the terrible carnage there is important, first and foremost from a humane standpoint.”
Syria’s fragile ceasefire entered its second day on Sunday, with battle zones across the war-scarred country largely quiet for the first time in five years despite some sporadic breaches. The temporary truce, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is seen as a crucial step toward ending a conflict that has claimed 270,000 lives and displaced more than half the population.
“But at the same time,” Netanyahu continued, “it’s important that one thing remains clear: Any arrangement in Syria must include ending Iranian aggression against Israel from Syrian territory.”
Iranian agents have been said to operate on the Syrian Golan Heights in recent years, seeking ways to attack Israel. Meanwhile, Lebanon-based Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group that has been fighting rebel forces alongside the Syrian army, has been threatening cross-border attacks.
Jerusalem has long warned that Iran has been delivering advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in a bid to aid its struggle with Israel. The Israeli Air Force has launched multiple airstrikes in recent years in order to thwart such deliveries, according to foreign reports.
“We will not abide the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, from Syria to Lebanon,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “We will not abide the creation of a second terror front in the Golan. Those were the red lines we set, and they remain the State of Israel’s red lines.”
On December 19, 2015, Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar was killed in an airstrike on a building outside Damascus, prompting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to vow revenge against Israel. Israel did not officially claim the attack, although officials expressed satisfaction over Kuntar’s death. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Nasrallah alleged that Israel may have coordinated the hit with Syrian rebel “terrorists” operating in the area. The Assad regime also blamed “terrorist groups” for the strike.
In January, Israel shelled the Lebanese border for several consecutive days, aiming to deter an attack by Hezbollah in the wake of Nasrallah’s threats. On February 16, the Hezbollah leader warned his group could defeat the Jewish state in a future conflict by targeting Haifa’s ammonia storage tanks, resulting in massive fatalities.
“This would be exactly as a nuclear bomb, and we can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” he said in a rare speech.
Three days later, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that “Iran tried to open a terror front” against Israel on the Golan Heights. He added that given a choice “between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State.”
AFP contributed to this report.