Israel demands UN Security Council action against Iranian presence in Syria

Following border incidents blamed on Tehran’s Quds Force, UN envoy Erdan says attacks violate 1974 agreement, risk regional escalation

A combat engineer removes three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

By TOI STAFFToday, 9:07 am  2A combat engineer removes three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

By TOI STAFFToday, 9:07 am  2A combat engineer removes three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan on Tuesday night demanded that the Security Council take action against Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, following several incidents in which improvised explosive devices were planted on the Israeli side of the border, allegedly by forces controlled by Tehran.

The Israel Defense Forces has blamed a unit in Iran’s elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for planting three anti-personnel mines in Israeli territory along the border with Syria on November 17, drawing retaliatory Israeli strikes.

The uncovered mines were planted within Israeli territory, but on the Syrian side of the security fence, an area where Israeli troops routinely conduct patrols, indicating that the explosives were meant to be used against those soldiers. IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters last week that the mines were planted by Syrian nationals who live near the border, at the instruction of the IRGC Quds Force.

The military has said that Quds Force’s Unit 840 was also behind a similar attempt in August by four armed men to plant explosives inside an unmanned military outpost along the border. The four were killed by IDF troops when they crossed into Israeli territory.

On Tuesday, Erdan wrote an official letter to Security Council President Inga Rhonda King and to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, charging that the actions were in “direct violation” of a 1974 Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Syria, which ended the Yom Kippur War and created a buffer zone along the border.

Then-public security minister Gilad Erdan, at a press conference on January 2, 2019. (Flash90)

Erdan said that the deputy commander of UNDOF, the UN peacekeeping force along the Israel-Syria border, has been provided with details and evidence of the attempted attacks.

“These incidents, conducted by Iran’s proxies in Syria (IRGC Quds Force, Unit 840), prove once again that Syrian territory, including the Area of Separation (AOS), is being abused by hostile elements,” Erdan wrote.

“The Syrian regime continues to allow Iran and its proxies to use its territory, including military facilities and infrastructure, to entrench its presence in Syria and undermine efforts to maintain stability in the region,” he added.

“These activities constitute a serious and blatant violation of the Disengagement Agreement (1974); carry the potential for serious escalation in the region; and pose a risk not only to the local civilian population, but also to the UN personnel on the ground.

“Israel expects a thorough investigation of these incidents by UNDOF and an appropriate report to the Security Council Members,” Erdan said.

“Israel calls upon the Security Council to condemn these recurring dangerous acts and demands a total rollback of Iran and its proxies from Syria and the removal of Iranian military infrastructure from Syrian territory.”Three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, which were uncovered on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel views a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria as an unacceptable threat, which it will take military action to prevent.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

Alexander Fulbright and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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