Damascus warns Israel of ‘more surprises’ in Syria

An Israeli soldiers deployed in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
0

Damascus warns Israel of ‘more surprises’ in Syria

DAMASCUS/JERUSALEM: Israel will face “more surprises” should it again attack Syrian territory, Damascus said on Tuesday, after Syria’s air defenses shot down an advanced Israeli warplane during the fiercest flare-up between the old foes in 36 years.
The F-16 jet was hit over northern Israel on Saturday as it returned from a raid on a Syrian position blamed for launching an Iranian-made drone across the border. Iran is supporting President Bashar Assad in Syria’s near seven-year civil war.
“Have full confidence the aggressor will be greatly surprised, because it thought this war — this war of attrition Syria has been exposed to for years — had made it incapable of confronting attacks,” Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sussan said.
“God willing, they will see more surprises whenever they try to attack Syria,” Sussan said during a Damascus news conference.
The downed F-16 was the first warplane Israel has lost to enemy fire since its 1982 Lebanon war. Its two-man crew survived, with injuries, after bailing out of the stricken jet.
Israel retaliated by destroying around half of Syria’s anti-aircraft batteries, according to an initial assessment shared with Reuters by an Israeli official who requested anonymity.
Israel has said it will press ahead with missions in Syria, where it has launched scores of sorties against suspected arms transfers to Iranian-sponsored Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
“There are no limitations, and nor do we accept any limitations,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters during a tour of Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon.
“We will continue to defend our vital security and other interests. And I would like to paraphrase the well-known saying: ‘This is not the time to bark, this is the time to bite.’“
Tehran’s involvement in Syria, including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has alarmed Israel. It has also has accused Iran of building precision-guided missile factories for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Syria and Hezbollah celebrated the F-16 shoot-down as a blow to Israeli military superiority. Israel’s Army Radio said on Tuesday that investigators believed pilot error — rather than Syrian capabilities — were mainly at fault for the F-16’s failure to evade what was probably an aged SA-5 missile.
Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on that report, saying the investigation was ongoing.
Saturday’s incident stirred up further questions in Israel about the effectiveness of a coordination mechanism set up with Russia, which has also been reinforcing and arming Assad’s army.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the flare-up by urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid escalation in Syria. Moscow said on Monday it did not have information to support Israel’s allegation about an Iranian military presence in the site bombed for launching the drone.
Zeev Elkin, a Russian-speaking Israeli cabinet minister who serves as Netanyahu’s interpreter in the talks with Putin, defended the coordination mechanism on Tuesday as granting Israel “freedom of action in the skies above Lebanon and Syria.”
“I don’t think the Russians ever pledged that they would take military action against the Iranians and the Syrians for us,” Elkin told Israel Radio.
“We are going one-on-one against the Syrians. We don’t need assistance from the Russians. We know how to deal with Syrian anti-aircraft fire, as everyone ultimately saw.”


Palestinian FM to press ICC on war crimes probe

Updated 50 min 13 sec ago
0

Palestinian FM to press ICC on war crimes probe

THE HAGUE: Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki was to arrive in The Netherlands later Monday ahead of talks with the chief prosecutor of the world's only permanent war crimes court.
Maliki will meet with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Tuesday morning just over a week after 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as they protested the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
Maliki will update Bensouda on the situation in the Palestinian territories and also "submit a referral" on the issue of Jewish settlements during their talks at the International Criminal Court ICC), the Palestinian embassy in The Hague said in a statement.
Afterwards, Maliki will hold a press conference outside the court. He will also meet later Tuesday with Dutch counterpart Stef Blok.
Bensouda vowed last week that she was watching the unrest in Gaza closely and would "take any action warranted" to prosecute crimes.
"My staff is vigilantly following developments on the ground and recording any alleged crime that could fall within" the tribunal's jurisdiction, she warned in a statement to AFP.
"The violence must stop," she insisted, urging "all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this situation and the Israel Defence Forces to avoid excessive use of force."
The Palestinian Authority joined the ICC in January 2015 signing up to the Rome Statute which underpins the world's only permanent war crimes court.
The Palestinians asked the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in the Gaza war the previous year, and Bensouda opened her inquiry just a few days later.
The preliminary examination which comes ahead of a full-blown investigation continues.