Archive for May 1, 2020

Iran: Germany will face consequences for caving to Israel, US with Hezbollah ban 

May 1, 2020

Source: Iran: Germany will face consequences for caving to Israel, US with Hezbollah ban | The Times of Israel

Islamic republic says Berlin made move due to pressure from the ‘propaganda machine of the Zionists and America’s confused regime’

Hezbollah fighters stand in formation at a rally to mark Jerusalem Day or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Hezbollah fighters stand in formation at a rally to mark Jerusalem Day or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Iran on Friday slammed Germany’s ban on the activities of Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah on its soil, saying it would face consequences for its decision to give in to the “propaganda machine” of Israel and US.

Germany branded the Iranian-backed group a “Shiite terrorist organization” on Thursday, with dozens of police and special forces storming mosques and associations across the country linked to the Lebanese terror group.

In a statement issued overnight, Iran’s foreign ministry said the ban ignores “realities in West Asia.”

The Islamic republic said the move was based solely on the goals of the “propaganda machine of the Zionists and America’s confused regime.”

In this Oct. 25, 2019 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hold his pictures and waves Hezbollah flags in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

It “strongly” condemned the decision it said showed “complete disrespect to the government and nation of Lebanon, as Hezbollah is a formal and legitimate part of the country’s government and parliament.”

Iran said Hezbollah had a “key role in fighting Daesh’s terrorism in the region,” using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

“The German government must face the negative consequences of its decision in the fight against real terrorist groups in the region,” it added.

Germany on Thursday officially announced that it has outlawed activities by Hezbollah. In a dramatic departure from Berlin’s previous policy, which was based on the European Union’s stance, the new ban does not differentiate between the group’s military and political wings.

Hezbollah activities “violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding,” said German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The group, headed by Hassan Nasrallah, denies Israel’s right to exist and “supports the armed terrorist fight” against the Jewish state, his ministry said in a statement issued Thursday. “It is to be expected that Hezbollah will continue to plot terrorist acts against Israel and Israeli interests also outside the Middle East.”

A man fixes a Hezbollah flag at the ‘Garden of Iran’ Park in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras on September 1, 2019, as fires blaze on the Lebanese side along the border following an exchange of fire with Israel. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Early on Thursday morning, German police raided four groups associated with Hezbollah in various locations across the country to ensure that “evidence of potential sub-organizations in Germany could not be destroyed when this ban was announced,” the Interior Ministry said.

Since there is no formal German branch of Hezbollah, Berlin cannot outlaw the organization as such, according to an Interior Ministry statement. Hence the government undertook to ban Hezbollah’s activities, which has the same legal consequences, the statement explained: “It is prohibited to use or display symbols and to organize and participate in assemblies; assets are confiscated and forfeited. Violations of bans on organizations and activities are equally punishable.”

The new policy prohibits the showing of Hezbollah signs and symbols in public, including “in an assembly or in print, audio or visual media, pictures or portrayals.” Even the symbol of the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts, Hezbollah’s youth movement, is banned. The group’s assets will be confiscated.

A pro-Palestinian supporter holds up a flag belonging to the Hezbollah group, during a march to protest against Israel in central London, May 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Israel welcomed Berlin’s new policy. “It is a very important decision and a valuable and significant step in the global fight against terrorism,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement released shortly after the German decision was announced. “I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the German government for this step and I am sure that many governments in the Middle East as well as the thousands of victims of Hezbollah’s terror join in thanking them for this decision.”

Katz called on other European countries to follow the German move. “All the parts of Hezbollah, including the social, political and military wings, are terror organizations and they should be treated as such,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Germany for the move and also called on other countries to follow suit. “Any country advocating peace needs to expel terror groups and not give them any direct or indirect support,” he said in a statement released by his office.

The designation was also hailed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who praised the “strong action.”

“The US commends our German ally for banning this Iran-sponsored terrorist group and ensuring its supporters are denied operating space,” Pompeo said in a tweet, urging other European countries to follow suit.

German authorities estimate that 1,050 people living in the country are affiliated with Hezbollah.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.


Israel said to destroy arms cache in central Syria in rare daytime attack

May 1, 2020

Source: Israel said to destroy arms cache in central Syria in rare daytime attack | The Times of Israel

Damascus denies blast caused by Israel, says it was ‘human error’; Syrian war monitor says strike targeted Hezbollah weapons warehouse, in 2nd alleged IDF attack in under 12 hours

Israel bombed a munitions warehouse in central Syria on Friday morning in a rare daylight strike which sparked a massive explosion, according to reports from Syria.

The attack appeared to be the fifth strike attributed to Israel against Iran-linked forces in Syria in the past two weeks, coming less than 12 hours after Israeli attack helicopters reportedly bombed Iran-backed forces in the Syrian Golan Heights late Thursday night.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the arms cache that was bombed on Friday morning by Israel was located outside Homs and contained missiles and ammunition belonging to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.

Damascus officially denied that Israel was responsible for the explosion, saying it was the result of “human error” while transporting munitions, Syrian state media outlet SANA reported. This was widely seen by defense analysts as an attempt to cover-up yet another Israeli strike on Syrian soil.

According to Syrian media, the attack triggered huge secondary explosions, apparently as the munitions inside the warehouse detonated. SANA reported that at least 10 people were wounded in the blasts.

Damage caused to a street from secondary explosions after an alleged Israeli attack on a Hezbollah arms cache near Homs in central Syria on May 1, 2020. (Syrian state media SANA)

Photographs and videos from the scene showed massive damage to the surrounding area as shells and other munitions inside the warehouse were set off by the explosion.

The Friday morning attack, which would be a highly irregular though not unprecedented daytime strike, came less than a day after a reported attack by Israel against pro-Iranian forces in southern Syria.

Shortly after midnight on Friday, Syria accused Israeli helicopters of firing at least five missiles at targets on the Syrian Golan Heights, just across the border from Israel.

“From the occupied Golan airspace, enemy Israeli helicopters attacked positions in the southern region with several missiles,” Syrian state news agency SANA said.

SANA said the missile strike in the area of Quneitra caused “only material damage.” It did not report any casualties or specify what was targeted.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported on the strikes, saying they targeted military positions of Iranian forces and pro-Iran militias.

The attack follows a series of strikes on Iran-linked forces in Syria in recent weeks.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday appeared to confirm that Israel was responsible for attacks against pro-Iranian forces in Syria, saying that the military was working to drive Tehran out of the country.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina in the plenum hall of the Knesset on February 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We have moved from blocking Iran’s entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop,” Bennett said in a statement.

“We will not allow more strategic threats to grow just across our borders without taking action,” he said. “We will continue to take the fight to the enemy’s territory.”

The airstrike early Monday on a military airfield outside Damascus killed four pro-Iranian fighters, according to the Observatory for Human Rights. Three Syrian civilians were also reportedly killed by shrapnel, though it was not clear if the fragments came from the incoming missiles or Syria’s air defenses.

The Observatory said a number of Iranian-linked command centers were destroyed in the attack.

Bennett did not explicitly confirm Israel’s involvement in that airstrike, though his comments were seen as a clear hint to that effect.

Israeli military officials have warned that acknowledging such strikes adds pressure on Iran and its proxies to retaliate in order to save face.

Jerusalem says Iran’s presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad, is a threat, as Tehran seeks to establish a permanent foothold along Israel’s northern borders. Israel has also threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from providing the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group with advanced weaponry, specifically precision-guided missiles.

Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, but the Israel Defense Forces has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.

Last week Syria accused Israel of hitting targets also near Homs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the targets were “military posts for Iranian militias in the Palmyra desert.”

On April 15, a car driven by several Hezbollah operatives was targeted in a strike attributed to Israel as it made its way from Syria toward Lebanon. The passengers in the vehicle escaped after an apparent warning shot was fired next to the car.

A private Israeli intelligence firm on Thursday released images showing the aftermath of the Monday airstrike against Iran-backed forces in Syria that was attributed to Israel. The attack targeted a warehouse outside of Palmyra and the entrance to an underground facility near Damascus, according to the satellite images.

TOI staff and AFP contributed to this report.