Israel issues Syria warning after concern over Iran-backed forces

Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria on November 4, 2017. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Updated 13 November 2017
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Israel issues Syria warning after concern over Iran-backed forces

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled Monday that Israel would take military action in Syria when it sees fit as it seeks to ensure Iran-backed forces stay away from its territory.
Israel has long accused Iran, its main enemy, of taking advantage of Syria’s civil war to send its Revolutionary Guard and its Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah into southern Syria, close to the border with the Jewish state.
It has sought to avoid being dragged into the fighting but has carried out dozens of air strikes to prevent arms deliveries to Hezbollah, which fights alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Israel was reportedly seeking a buffer zone in southern Syria near Israeli territory of some 50 kilometers (30 miles), but an agreement reached last week between the United States, Russia and Jordan fell short of that demand, Israeli media said.
“I have made it clear to our friends, first of all in Washington and also to our friends in Moscow, that Israel will act in Syria — including in southern Syria — according to our understanding and according to our security needs,” Netanyahu told senior members of his Likud party, according to a party statement.
“This is what is happening and this is what will continue to happen.”
The November 8 agreement between Jordan, the United States and Russia seeks to build on a cease-fire already in place in southwestern Syria.
On Saturday the Israeli military said it shot down a Syrian drone carrying out a reconnaissance mission over the Golan Heights.
“We will not allow the consolidation of a Shiite axis in Syria” as a base for operations against Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement after the incident.
Speaking later Monday in parliament, Netanyahu said some of Israel’s Arab neighbors shared its concerns.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with countries of the moderate camp in the Arab world, in the face of radical Islam, no matter where it comes from, be it Iran, the Daesh group or elsewhere,” he said, without naming the countries.
“I think that this growing closeness and consultation is first and foremost good for security and ultimately for peace,” he added.
Sunni Muslim powerhouse Saudi Arabia has long been at loggerheads with Shiite, non-Arab Iran but friction has been Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of “direct military aggression” against the kingdom by supplying the Yemen's Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles.
The kingdom says one was fired toward Riyadh from Yemen on November 4 but brought down by its air defenses.
Iran denied any involvement.
“Iran knows very well, and everyone else should be aware, that we shall not agree to nor accept its military deployment in Syria,” Netanyahu told parliament.
In September, Israel’s military shot down what it said was an Iranian-made drone operated by arch-foe Hezbollah on a similar mission.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.


Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

Updated 20 min 57 sec ago
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Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

  • Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead
  • ‘No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force’

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities issued a notice to residents of a Bedouin village in a strategic spot in the occupied West Bank on Sunday informing them they have until the end of the month to leave.
The fate of Khan Al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it.
Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead.
Israel says the village was built without the proper permits, though it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to receive such permission in that part of the West Bank.
The notice given to the some 200 residents of Khan Al-Ahmar on Sunday says they have until the end of the month to demolish the village themselves.
“Pursuant to a supreme court ruling, residents of Khan Al-Ahmar received a notice today requiring them to demolish all the structures on the site by October 1st, 2018,” a statement from the Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said.
It did not say what will happen if they refuse to do so. Village residents vowed not to leave despite the notice.
“No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force,” said village spokesman Eid Abu Khamis, adding that a residents’ meeting would be held later on the issue.
“If the Israeli army comes to demolish, it will only be by force.”
The village is located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem, near Israeli settlements and along a road leading to the Dead Sea.
There have been warnings that continued settlement building in the area would eventually divide the West Bank in two, dealing a death blow to any remaining hopes of a two-state solution.
Israeli authorities have offered alternative sites for Khan Al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.