Archive for January 12, 2019

Report: Israel attacks Damascus airport arms depot

January 12, 2019

Source: Report: Israel attacks Damascus airport arms depot

Syrian state news agency says Israeli jets hit ammunition warehouse at Damascus airport, adding most Israeli missiles intercepted by Syrian air defenses; Syrian Observatory says Israel also targeted Hezbollah missile deport in Al-Kiswah area.
 SANA reported that “over eight targets” exploded over the capital of Damascus, saying Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the Israeli missiles.An ammunition warehouse at the Damascus airport was reportedly hit, but a Syrian Transport Ministry official said to SANA airport activity continues as normal.

“At 11:15 before midnight Israeli warplanes coming from Al-Jalil area launched many missiles towards Damascus area and our air defenses intercepted them and downed most of them,” a Syrian military source said to SANA.Syrian state media broadcast footage of what it said were the air defenses firing, with bright lights seen shooting across the night sky. Explosions were heard in one of the videos.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the attack targeted missile depots that belong to Hezbollah in the Al-Kiswah area as well as the Damascus airport.

Explosions over Damascus

Explosions over Damascus

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said the attack was broader than usual, targeting areas ranging from the eastern Damascus suburb of Dmeir to Al-Kiswah south of capital all the way to the village of Dimas in the west near the Lebanon border. It also said Israeli fighter jets were also operating in Lebanese airspace.

Israel has mounted attacks in Syria as part of its effort to counter the influence carved out there by Iran, which has supported President Bashar Assad in the war that erupted in 2011.

The last Israeli attack reported by Syrian state media was on December 25, when a missile attack wounded three Syrian soldiers. It was the most extensive airstrike since a Russian intelligence plane was accidentally shot down during an Israeli strike.

An Israeli official said the air force had attacked several Iranian targets in three main locations. He said the targets were primarily storage and logistics facilities used by Iran to ship weapons to Hezbollah.

Russia criticized Israel’s “provocative” strike, saying it directly threatened two civilian flights. Russia’s Ministry of Defense, which did not specify which flights had been threatened, added that Syrian air defenses had destroyed 14 of 16 Israeli missiles launched by six F-16 jets against unspecified targets near Damascus.

Lebanon’s acting Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos confirmed Russia’s account, saying the two airplanes in Lebanese airspace “narrowly” escaped Israeli warplanes, averting a “human catastrophe.” Fenianos said Lebanon will present a complaint to the UN Security Council.

Russia said the Syrian military didn’t fully engage its air defense assets to avoid accidentally hitting the passenger jets, adding that Syrian air traffic controllers redirected the Damascus-bound plane to a Russian air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.

An Israeli official said it was Syrian air defenses that endangered the civilian planes, by firing 30 missiles in response to the airstrike. He also said that Iranian forces are operating less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Israeli border, contrary to Russian assurances.

A senior Israeli official said in September Israel had carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Netanyahu said invited to anti-Iran conference in Warsaw alongside Arab FMs 

January 12, 2019

Source: Netanyahu said invited to anti-Iran conference in Warsaw alongside Arab FMs | The Times of Israel

TV report: PM hasn’t yet said if he’ll accept Pompeo’s invitation, which could enable him to pose with regional leaders two months before Israel’s elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to attend a conference next month being organized by the United States and Poland aimed at rolling back Iran’s regional influence, Israeli television reported Friday.

Netanyahu has not yet decided whether to accept US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s invitation to attend the summit in Warsaw, according to Channel 10 news. Foreign ministers from Arab Gulf states that share Israel’s antipathy to Iran were also invited, among dozens of foreign ministers worldwide. Netanyahu also serves as Israel’s foreign minister.

The TV report specified that the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel has diplomatic relations, have been invited, along with those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco, with which it does not.

There has been a thaw in Israeli ties to these and several other countries in the region in recent years amid their shared hostility to Iran. Pompeo welcomed this development in a speech in Cairo on Thursday and called for “old rivalries” to be put aside to confront Tehran.

Netanyahu received the invitation two weeks ago, Channel 10 said, and posited that he would be likely to accept, since it would boost his election campaign for him to be seen mingling with Arab leaders — underlining his contention that, under his leadership, Israel is building ties in the region irrespective of the deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. It is not clear whether a Palestinian representative has been invited to the conference.

Israel goes to the polls on April 9, and surveys show Netanyahu on course for re-election, even though he is mired in a corruption investigation.

Pompeo announced the February summit in Poland earlier Friday, as he continued a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria, which sparked concerns that Iran’s influence could grow. US officials said Friday that the withdrawal had now begun.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2018 (Haim Zach/GPO)

“We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” Pompeo told Fox News, unveiling the conference.

The participants will “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence,” the top US diplomat said.

Iran’s foreign minister later criticized the event.

“Reminder to host/participants of anti-Iran conference: those who attended last US anti-Iran show are either dead, disgraced, or marginalized. And Iran is stronger than ever,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a Twitter post that included a photograph from the 1996 “Summit of Peacemakers” in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt.

The photo showed Jordan’s King Hussein, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, US President Bill Clinton, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, among other world leaders.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Reminder to host/participants of anti-Iran conference: those who attended last US anti-Iran show are either dead, disgraced, or marginalized. And Iran is stronger than ever.
Polish Govt can’t wash the shame: while Iran saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus.

Zarif also took aim at Poland for hosting the summit in light of Iran’s hosting of Polish refugees during World War II.

“Polish Govt can’t wash the shame: while Iran saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus,” he said.

The event will take place on February 13 and 14.

Pompeo brought the Trump administration’s anti-Iran message to Gulf Arab states on Friday as he continued his nine-nation tour of the Middle East.

He was traveling to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, where he will call for increasing pressure on Iran and push for unity among Gulf neighbors still embroiled in a festering dispute with Qatar. He’ll also be promoting a US-backed initiative to form what some have termed an “Arab NATO” that would bring the region together in a military alliance to counter threats from Iran.

In Bahrain, the UAE and later Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait, Pompeo will also be making the case as he did on previous stops in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt that Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria is not a sign Washington is retreating from the fight against the Islamic State group.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C-R) is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (C-L) after arriving in Manama International Airport in Manama on January 11, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/AFP)

Pompeo kicked off the Gulf portion of his tour after a stop in Cairo, where he delivered a scathing rebuke of former president Barack Obama’s Middle East policies that Obama had outlined in a 2009 address to the Arab and broader Muslim world.

In a speech entitled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” Pompeo accused the former president of “misguided” thinking that diminished America’s role in the region while harming its longtime friends and emboldening Iran.

Pompeo blamed the previous administration’s approach to the Mideast for the ills that consume it now, particularly the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and Iran’s increasing assertiveness, which he said was a direct result of sanctions relief, since rescinded by the Trump administration, granted to it under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Since withdrawing from the nuclear deal last year, the administration has steadily ratcheted up pressure on Tehran and routinely accuses the nation of being the most destabilizing influence in the region. It has vowed to increase the pressure until Iran halts what US officials describe as its “malign activities” throughout the Mideast and elsewhere, including support for rebels in Yemen, anti-Israel groups, and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

 

After mass riots on Gaza border, US envoy says Hamas ‘putting lives at risk’

January 12, 2019

Source: After mass riots on Gaza border, US envoy says Hamas ‘putting lives at risk’ | The Times of Israel

Following death of Palestinian woman amid violent protests, Jason Greenblatt says terror group making ‘cynical us

This picture taken on January 11, 2019 shows a view of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces across the border fence (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

This picture taken on January 11, 2019 shows a view of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces across the border fence (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemned Hamas Friday for its “instigation of violence” along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, after a day of intense rioting along the frontier.

In a tweet, Greenblatt said Hamas was “putting lives, both Israeli and Palestinian, at risk,” and added that it was making “cynical use of Gaza’s citizens” while driving the territory backward.

The Israeli army said some 13,000 Palestinians participated in riots along the fence Friday afternoon, throwing rocks, fire bombs and hand-grenades at Israeli troops, burning tires and trying to breach the security fence. Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the army said.

A Palestinian woman was shot dead by troops during the riot, the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry said.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

The air force attacked two Hamas posts in northern Gaza in response to violence, the Israel Defense Forces said.

At least 15 other Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire during the border riots, the ministry said. One of them was reportedly a journalist, hurt when an ambulance was hit.

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) is seen during a visit to the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on August 30, 2017. (David Azagury/US Embassy Tel Aviv/Flash90)

An Israeli soldier was lightly injured by a rock, the IDF said.

The army said it identified several incidents where Palestinians tried to breach the fence and in one instance opened fire on them.

“IDF troops monitored the suspects in each incident and all the suspects returned to the Gaza Strip soon after crossing,” the army said. “In response to the violent events along the security fence, an IDF aircraft targeted a Hamas military post.” Aircraft later hit a second post.

The Israeli army had braced for an outbreak of renewed violence along the Gaza border, as tensions escalated between Jerusalem and the Hamas terror group that rules the Strip as well as between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

The Egyptian military sent a senior delegation to the Palestinian enclave on Thursday, led by deputy chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Ayman Badia, in an effort to negotiate a settlement on some of the issues and prevent an escalation.

Palestinian protesters run through tear gas fumes during clashes with Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The delegation left Gaza on Friday afternoon and traveled to Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with the PA.

Throughout the morning, Palestinians along the border launched balloons laden with incendiary devices across the border into Israel.

More serious clashes with Israeli troops began later in the day, following afternoon prayers, as has been the case since March 2018, with the start of the “March of Return” protests, an initially civilian-led movement that was quickly hijacked by Hamas.

In recent days, Hamas has ramped up its threats of renewed violence along the Gaza border after Israel halted the transfer of $15 million of Qatari funds to the terror group after an exchange of fire earlier this week. The funds are part of a series of six $15 million deposits Israel is allowing Qatar to deliver to Hamas as part of a highly contentious ceasefire agreement. The funds are meant ostensibly to pay the group’s civilian workers, though some Israeli officials — including former defense minister Avigdor Liberman — maintain the money will be used for Hamas’s terrorist activities.

Palestinian sources in Gaza this week reported that Hamas is planning to renew incendiary balloon attacks, along with the offensive tactics implemented in the weeks preceding the Qatari cash injection.

Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.

 

Outgoing IDF chief: Israel has struck ‘thousands’ of Iranian targets in Syria

January 12, 2019

Source: Outgoing IDF chief: Israel has struck ‘thousands’ of Iranian targets in Syria | The Times of Israel

Eisenkot: Tehran-backed forces leaving due to IDF ops; Soleimani erred in ‘choosing a playground where he is relatively weak’ and Israel has ‘complete’ military, intel superiority

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott speaks at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya on January 02, 2018. (FLASH90)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott speaks at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya on January 02, 2018. (FLASH90)

The outgoing IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot on Friday said that Israel has carried out “thousands” of airstrikes against Iranian military targets in Syria in recent years.

In an interview to the New York Times ahead of his retirement next week, Eisenkot for the first time confirmed the scale of Israel’s ongoing military campaign to thwart Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

“We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit,” he said.

Eisenkot said Israel in the last two years shifted its focus to Iran, its primary enemy, to prevent the IDF from getting bogged down in fighting secondary enemies like Hamas in Gaza.

“When you fight for many years against a weak enemy,” he said, “it also weakens you.”

An illustrative map showing the general locations of Israeli strikes in Syria in response to a presumed Iranian attack on the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

At first, Eisenkot said Israeli operations in Syria operated under a “certain threshold,” referring to the IDF restricting strikes to weapons shipments bound for Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy group Hezbollah during the first few years of the civil war that broke out in 2011.

But in the years that followed, Eisenkot said Iran made a “significant change” in its Syria strategy, and began importing manpower from around the Muslim world in a bid to solidify its hold in the country.

“Their vision was to have significant influence in Syria by building a force of up to 100,000 Shiite fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “They built intelligence bases and an air force base within each Syrian air base. And they brought civilians in order to indoctrinate them.”

By 2016, Eisenkot said the Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, had mobilized 3,000 of his men in Syria, along with 8,000 Hezbollah fighters and another 11,000 foreign Shiite troops.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

By January 2017, Eisenkot said he received unanimous permission from the security cabinet to step up strikes in Syria to near daily occurrences. In 2018 alone, he said Israel dropped 2,000 bombs on Iranian targets.

Soleimani attempted to retaliate to the ramped up Israeli campaign by launching 30 rockets at northern Israel last May, but Eisenkot said that not a single one reached its target.

The outgoing IDF chief said the Israeli strikes have been successful in preventing Iran from entrenching itself in Syria like it has in Yemen, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Soleimani, he said, made a strategic mistake by underestimating Israel’s resolve to act against Iranian interests in the region.

“His error was choosing a playground where he is relatively weak,” Eisenkot said. “We have complete intelligence superiority in this area. We enjoy complete aerial superiority. We have strong deterrence and we have the justification to act.”

“The force we faced over the last two years was a determined force,” he added, “but not very impressive in its capabilities.”

As a result of the Israeli strikes, Eisenkot said the Iranians were moving troops out of Syria and “transferring their efforts” to Iraq.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Eisenkot’s interview was published hours after Syrian media reported that air defenses shot down Israeli missiles near Damascus late Friday night.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the warplanes targeted two areas “hosting military positions of Iranian forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.”

Israeli officials made no statement on Friday’s reports, though it seldom comments on its operations in Syria.

 

SYRIAN REGIME: ISRAELI JETS STRUCK DAMASCUS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

January 12, 2019

Source: IDF Chief: Israel has complete superiority in Syria – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff admits to carrying out thousands of strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 JANUARY 12, 2019 12:18

Syrian regime: Israeli jets struck Damascus International Airport

The Syrian regime accused Israel of launching several missiles towards Damascus International Airport Friday night triggering air defenses which intercepted several of them, the official news agency SANA said.
The source said that “At 11:15 before midnight, Israeli warplanes coming from Galilee area launched several missiles towards the surroundings of Damascus and our air defenses immediately  intercepted them and downed most of them,” a military source was quoted by SANA as saying, adding that there were no casualties in the strikes only “material damage to one of the ammunition warehouses.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the jets targeted missile depots belonging to Hezbollah in the Al-Kiswah area as well as the Damascus airport. Other local reports said that the strikes had destroyed Iranian cargo planes at the airport outside the capital.
Syria’s Ministry of Transport stated that the air traffic at the airport was operating as usual and had not been affected by the strikes.
There was no comment on the strikes by Israel which rarely comments on alleged Israel Air Force operations on the northern front, but Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.
IAF jets are believed to have carried out dozens of attacks in al-Kiswah and Damascus International Airport as part of its effort to prevent Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.
With the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces, Israel’s northern front has become the IDF’s number one priority and on Friday outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot admitted that Israel has carried out “thousands” of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
“We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit,” he told The New York Timesahead of his retirement on Sunday.
Israel “operated under a certain threshold until two-and-a-half years ago,” when he got “unanimous consent” from the government to change the rules of the game and dropped some 2,000 missiles against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in 2018 alone.
Last month an Israeli official confirmed that Israel had carried out airstrikes against Iranian targets near the Syrian capital  on Christmas day, hitting an arms depot and several military positions including air defense facilities. In response to the strikes, Syria activated their air defense systems, causing Israel’s air defense system to activate against a Syrian anti-aircraft missile.
According to Newsweek, senior Hezbollah leaders were injured during the strike. A US Defense Department official with access to top Israeli military officials who are privy to the situation, allegedly told Newsweek that  the senior officials were targeted minutes after the group boarded a plane headed for Iran.

 

IDF chief threatens Lebanon with war – TV7 Israel News 11.01.19

January 12, 2019

 

 

Syria, following US decision to withdraw – Jerusalem Studio 387 – YouTube

January 12, 2019