President Reuven Rivlin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday that Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and support of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah could spark a regional war that would threaten Israel.
Through its ongoing involvement in the six-year-long Syrian conflict, Iran is liable to “sink the whole region into war,” Rivlin said. He said the war would “constitute a direct threat to Israel.”
In Berlin on a state visit, the president said that Hezbollah, with Iranian backing, had “consistently violated UN Security Council resolutions” and was endangering both the Lebanese and Israeli populations with its continued efforts to build up weapons supplies.
Rivlin thanked Merkel for Germany’s close military support for Israel, which includes the provision of strategic weapons systems such as a nuclear-capable submarine fleet.
“We all hope this commitment will remain between the two countries forever, regardless of which coalition is in power in either country,” Rivlin said.
In addition, “the President clarified that the weapons infrastructure that Hezbollah was building may require the State of Israel to respond,” a statement from the president’s office said.
The statement came hours after reports emerged of Israeli warplanes allegedly striking a facility in northern Syria early Thursday where the regime is said to have stockpiled chemical weapons and missiles.
The Syrian army confirmed in the morning that a military site near Masyaf was bombed, saying the attack was carried out by Israeli jets and killed two people.
Unconfirmed Lebanese reports said Israel also struck a convoy belonging to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. Opposition sources quoted by Israel Radio said the airstrike in Syria destroyed weapons stores including chemical-tipped missiles that were to be delivered to Hezbollah.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on any of the reports.
Israel has for years been widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.
Last week, the UN’s Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was extended Wednesday with new directions to conduct more patrols with Lebanese forces and report when peacekeepers run into roadblocks in Hezbollah strongholds in the country’s south.
The US and Israel wanted the text of the resolution to state that UNIFIL would have a bigger presence south of the Litani River and would have full authority in its efforts to prevent violations of UN Resolution 1701, which brought the 34-day Second Lebanon War to an end in August 2006.
That war was sparked by a cross-border raid into Israel by Hezbollah, in which three IDF soldiers were killed and two — Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — were captured. Five more IDF soldiers were killed a short while later in a failed Israeli rescue attempt and by the end of the war, 165 Israelis and 1,100 Lebanese had been killed.
Hezbollah, with its suspected arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and thousands of fighters, is seen by the IDF as its central threat. The Iran-backed terrorist group is therefore the standard by which the army measures its preparedness.
Israeli officials have raised alarms in recent months over increased Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon, as well as plans for an Iranian missile factory to supply the terror group with more accurate rockets. They have also expressed misgivings over a ceasefire in southern Syria that they say allows Iran to establish a foothold along Israel’s northern border.