Archive for June 3, 2019

(1) Israel conducts deadly retaliatory strikes against Syria – TV7 Israel News 03.06.19;

June 3, 2019

 

 

Iran calls US offer of talks without preconditions ‘wordplay’ 

June 3, 2019

Source: Iran calls US offer of talks without preconditions ‘wordplay’ – www.israelhayom.com

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Swiss counterpart that U.S. is ready to sit down with Iran when “the Iranians prove they are ready to behave like a normal nation.”

Reacting to a U.S. offer to engage with Iran without preconditions, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Tehran expected a change in U.S. behavior rather than “wordplay.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the United States is prepared to engage with Iran without preconditions about its nuclear program but needs to see the country behaving like “a normal nation.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not pay attention to wordplay and expression of hidden agenda in new forms. What matters is the change of U.S. general approach and actual behavior toward the Iranian nation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

“Pompeo’s emphasis on the continuation of maximum pressure on Iran is the same old wrong policy that needs reform.”

Pompeo, in an apparent softening of his previous stance, said when asked about Rouhani’s remarks: “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions, we are ready to sit down.”

However, he said Washington would continue to work to “reverse the malign activity” of Iran in the Middle East, citing Tehran’s support of Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

Pompeo said U.S. President Donald Trump had been saying for a long time that he was willing to talk to Iran.

“We are certainly prepared to have that conversation when the Iranians can prove that they want to behave like a normal nation,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona.

Trump said last Monday he was hopeful Iran would come to the negotiating table. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would not negotiate with Washington, even after Rouhani had previously signaled talks might be possible if sanctions were lifted.

Cassis voiced concern at Iranian people suffering from the impact of sanctions and said that neutral Switzerland wanted to provide humanitarian aid, “especially pharmaceutical products and foodstuffs.”

He said Iran needed to make payments for this, and that was possible only if the United States allowed banks to transfer payments. Cassis said he was confident the U.S. would come up with the “best possible solution” to that problem in a short time.

Iran has stayed within the main restrictions of its 2015 nuclear deal, a quarterly report by the U.N. atomic watchdog indicated on Friday, at a time when Tehran is threatening to break the rules in future in response to new U.S. sanctions.

Pompeo declined on Sunday to comment on the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He said Washington was tracking IAEA findings closely but added: “We also have our own independent understanding of what is taking place there.

“And the world should be mindful that we are watching closely how Iran is complying with the requirements that were set out in the JCPOA, not only the heavy water issue, but the amount of high-enriched uranium which they are accumulating,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which the Trump administration has quit.

“We are watching closely as they put centrifuges into work and whether they are actually beginning to spin those centrifuges and load those centrifuges,” Pompeo said.

Switzerland has served as an intermediary between Iran and the U.S. since shortly after the Islamic revolution in November 1979. Switzerland provides protective and consular services for some 100 U.S. citizens and 12,000 people with both U.S. and Iranian citizenship.

 

Someone in Syria wants to challenge Israel 

June 3, 2019

Source: Someone in Syria wants to challenge Israel – www.israelhayom.com

Israel has yet to determine who was behind the most recent rocket attack from Syria, but multiple actors – the Syrian regime, Iranian proxies or Palestinian terrorist groups – could have an interest in changing the rules of the game.

It was not the first attack of that type. Rockets have already been fired at the Hermon in recent years.

As a reminder, the most recent rocket attack, in January, took place in the afternoon hours and was carried out by Shiite militias supported by Iran, while the ski resort in the area was full of visitors. The rocket was intercepted by an Iron Dome battery stationed there in advance. That incident, which came in response to an Israeli airstrike, was exploited by Israel to carry out a broad attack on Iranian targets in Syria, most notably a logistics center used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah at the international airport in Damascus, which was knocked almost completely out of commission.

And yet, the rocket attack on Saturday was unusual in the sense that it seemingly came out of the blue. Unlike previous incidents, the attack wasn’t carried out in response or retaliation to any Israeli activity.

This could indicate that someone on the other side is fed up with Israel dictating the rules of the game in the north, and wants to send it a message that there’s more than one player on the field.

As of Sunday evening, Israeli officials were still unsure who fired the Grad rockets, one of which landed on the Hermon and the other, apparently, in Syrian territory.

The rockets were launched from a distance of around 30 kilometers (19 miles), from an area with multiple active actors, at least three of whom could have an interest in harming Israel: the Syrian regime or a group acting on its behalf, in an attempt to convey Damascus’ sovereignty; Iranian proxies (Shiite militias or Hezbollah), seeking revenge against Israel for a plethora of possible reasons – from airstrikes on weapons depots to economic sanctions imposed on Tehran; or another player, either Palestinian or another such terrorist group, who managed to get their hands on rockets and decided to put them to use.

From Israel’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter who fired the rockets. The response – striking Syrian artillery and anti-aircraft batteries and an intelligence gathering post near the border – sought to reiterate that as the sovereign power it is the regime’s responsibility to prevent hostile activities against Israel from its territory. This is Israel’s standing policy (in Gaza, too) – target the sovereign entity so that it exerts said sovereignty – to which it adhered to even throughout the Syrian civil war when the Assad regime was not in control of the border region. Therefore, it stands to reason that Israel is continuing to implement this policy now that the Syrian army has seized full control of the frontier region.

Still, this rocket attack should concern officials in Jerusalem because it means that someone in Syria wants to challenge Israel.

For the time being, the attack does not alter the basic situational assessment. The IDF enjoys complete dominance in the northern sector. If it avoids making mistakes (specifically regarding Russian forces in Syria), it will be able to continue, for now, to pound away at Iran’s entrenchment and weapons smuggling efforts. In the long term, however, Israel will have to consider and plan new avenues of action that reinforce deterrence and ensure that Israel meets its objectives in Syria; and as a byproduct in Lebanon as well.

Given the recent political upheaval in Israel, this task falls almost squarely on the IDF’s shoulders.

Consequently, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi will have to continue bearing an extraordinarily heavy load until a new, stable government can formulate a clear policy, security-related and otherwise. Until then, it seems things will mostly stay the same: from the frequent headaches in Gaza to the far more disconcerting security concerns in the north.

 

Report: For 2nd straight day, Israel strikes military targets in Syria 

June 3, 2019

Source: Report: For 2nd straight day, Israel strikes military targets in Syria – www.israelhayom.com

Israeli aircraft fires missiles at a T4 air base in country’s center late Sunday, killing at least one soldier and wounding two others. Base has long been used by Iranian forces in Syria. Unconfirmed reports say five combatants killed, three of them Syrian soldiers.

Unconfirmed reports said Monday that five soldiers were killed in the strike, three of them Syrian.

According to Syrian media, the Israeli strike targeted the T4 air base in the central province of Homs – long used by Iranian forces in Syria – just before midnight Sunday. There was no immediate comment from Israel about striking the air base.

Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified military official as saying that one soldier was killed and two others were wounded in the strike and that an arms depot was hit as well. Israel has attacked the T4 base in the past.

Earlier Sunday, the IDF confirmed it targeted several military positions in southern Syria, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defense unit, in response to two rockets launched from Syria late on Saturday, which caused no casualties.

Soon after the strike on Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed he had ordered the strikes. “We will not tolerate firing into our territory and will respond fiercely against any aggression against us,” he said in a statement.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Israeli aircraft struck positions and an arms depot belonging to Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters. It said the attacks killed at least 10, including three Syrian troops and seven who were believed to be foreign fighters. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory, said that “until this moment it is not clear if they were Iranians or Hezbollah members.”

Israel has acknowledged carrying out dozens of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets and Tehran’s allies over the past months.

 

TV report: White House tells Russia it backs Israeli strikes in Syria 

June 3, 2019

Source: TV report: White House tells Russia it backs Israeli strikes in Syria | The Times of Israel

US official quoted saying Trump administration told Kremlin it supports Israeli action so long as Iranian forces remain in the country

Israeli soldiers manoeuver Merkava tanks in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on June 2, 2019. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israeli soldiers manoeuver Merkava tanks in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on June 2, 2019. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

A senior official in the Trump administration says the US has made it clear to Russia several times in recent months that America supports Israeli attacks in Syria as long as Iranian forces are operating in the country, Channel 13 reported Sunday.

The unnamed official was quoted as saying the US had told the Russians that Israel has America’s complete support for attacking targets in Syria.

“We told them [Russia] that all the Iranian forces should leave, and this is not only an Israeli demand, but also an American demand,” the source reportedly said.

The revelation came after Israel retaliated for an attack a day earlier in which rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon, with one explosion damaging a ski-lift.

Reports said seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in the Israel Defense Forces airstrikes Sunday on several military targets in Syria.

Smoke seen billowing from the landing site of a rocket fired from Syrian territory at Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights on June 1, 2019. (Screenshot from Mt. Hermon ski site CCTV)

According to Sunday’s report, the US official said Israel had asked the United States to intervene with Russia regarding Moscow’s commitment to keep pro-Iranian forces at least 70-100 kilometers away from the border, saying that Washington had raised the issue with the Russians in quiet diplomatic talks.

In three weeks the national security advisers of Israel, the US and Russiaare expected to meet in Jerusalem in the first security summit of its kind.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, are expected to discuss Syria and Iran when they meet later this month in Jerusalem with Israel’s national security chief Meir Ben-Shabbat. Israel wants to push Russia and the US to cooperate in reaching a political settlement that will remove the Iranian forces from Syria.

Earlier this year, Amos Gilad, a former army general and powerful head of the Defense Ministry’s political affairs bureau, warned that Israel was failing to force Iran to abandon its plans to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, despite the success of Israel Defense Forces strikes there.

“On the tactical and operational level, the strikes on the Iranians are powerful. But on a strategic level, we are not succeeding,” Gilad said.

Israel has for years accused Tehran of trying to establish a permanent military presence in Syria from which the Islamic republic could threaten the Jewish state, much in the same way it does from Lebanon with its proxy there, the Hezbollah terrorist group.

 

TV report: White House tells Russia it backs Israeli strikes in Syria 

June 3, 2019

Source: TV report: White House tells Russia it backs Israeli strikes in Syria | The Times of Israel

US official quoted saying Trump administration told Kremlin it supports Israeli action so long as Iranian forces remain in the country

Israeli soldiers manoeuver Merkava tanks in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on June 2, 2019. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israeli soldiers manoeuver Merkava tanks in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on June 2, 2019. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

A senior official in the Trump administration says the US has made it clear to Russia several times in recent months that America supports Israeli attacks in Syria as long as Iranian forces are operating in the country, Channel 13 reported Sunday.

The unnamed official was quoted as saying the US had told the Russians that Israel has America’s complete support for attacking targets in Syria.

“We told them [Russia] that all the Iranian forces should leave, and this is not only an Israeli demand, but also an American demand,” the source reportedly said.

The revelation came after Israel retaliated for an attack a day earlier in which rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon, with one explosion damaging a ski-lift.

Reports said seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in the Israel Defense Forces airstrikes Sunday on several military targets in Syria.

Smoke seen billowing from the landing site of a rocket fired from Syrian territory at Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights on June 1, 2019. (Screenshot from Mt. Hermon ski site CCTV)

According to Sunday’s report, the US official said Israel had asked the United States to intervene with Russia regarding Moscow’s commitment to keep pro-Iranian forces at least 70-100 kilometers away from the border, saying that Washington had raised the issue with the Russians in quiet diplomatic talks.

In three weeks the national security advisers of Israel, the US and Russiaare expected to meet in Jerusalem in the first security summit of its kind.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, are expected to discuss Syria and Iran when they meet later this month in Jerusalem with Israel’s national security chief Meir Ben-Shabbat. Israel wants to push Russia and the US to cooperate in reaching a political settlement that will remove the Iranian forces from Syria.

Earlier this year, Amos Gilad, a former army general and powerful head of the Defense Ministry’s political affairs bureau, warned that Israel was failing to force Iran to abandon its plans to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, despite the success of Israel Defense Forces strikes there.

“On the tactical and operational level, the strikes on the Iranians are powerful. But on a strategic level, we are not succeeding,” Gilad said.

Israel has for years accused Tehran of trying to establish a permanent military presence in Syria from which the Islamic republic could threaten the Jewish state, much in the same way it does from Lebanon with its proxy there, the Hezbollah terrorist group.

 

Netanyahu threatens Iran, citing overnight Israeli strikes in Syria

June 3, 2019

Source: Netanyahu threatens Iran, citing overnight Israeli strikes in Syria | The Times of Israel

At Jerusalem Day ceremony, PM says anyone who tries to hurt Israel will be hurt far worse, claims Tehran gives Hezbollah $700 million a year

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the crowd during a Jerusalem Day celebration at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, on June 2, 2019. To his right is Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the crowd during a Jerusalem Day celebration at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, on June 2, 2019. To his right is Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Iran that Israel’s airstrikes on Syria earlier in the day showed that, when assaulted, the Jewish state hits back hard.

Speaking at a ceremony for Jerusalem Day, when Israel marks the unification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, Netanyahu said that in the decades since that conflict many moderate Arab states have “sobered up” regarding their attitudes toward Israel, which they now see as an ally against Iran.

“While we do not make light of Iran’s threats, neither are we deterred by them because anyone who tries to hurt us will be hurt far worse,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, the location of a key battle during the war. “We have proven this many times in the history of our state. We proved it just last night.”

The ceremony was also attended by President Reuven Rivlin, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other senior officials.

“Since 1967, a large number of Arab and Muslim countries have sobered up and today, thanks to our strength, they cooperate with us in an unprecedented manner,” Netanyahu said.

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

The IDF carried out airstrikes on several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights the night before, the army said in a statement earlier.

“Every year Iran transfers to its protege Hezbollah $700 million,” Netanyahu said Sunday evening. “These enormous amounts are used to fuel the endless aggression by Iran and its satellites in our region. Our neighbors know this, all the Arab states know it, and that is one of the things bringing them to a renewed closeness with us.”

Beginning at 4:10 a.m. Sunday, IDF helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the army said in its statement. Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and its proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus.

The strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility. Seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed by the strikes, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor group.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying who it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

Saturday night’s rockets appeared to be a relatively long-range variety, reportedly fired from the Damascus area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, similar to an attack earlier this year aimed at Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon is located in the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. In addition to a popular ski resort, the area is also home to a number of military installations.