Israel has bombed Iranian-backed militias in Syria — Netanyahu

A man watches a presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the International Homeland security Forum in Jerusalem on June 14, 2018. (AFP / THOMAS COEX)
Updated 15 June 2018
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Israel has bombed Iranian-backed militias in Syria — Netanyahu

  • Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority.
  • About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.

JERUSALEM: Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni refugee exodus to Europe.
Israeli officials have previously disclosed scores of air strikes within Syria to prevent suspected arms transfers to Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas or Iranian military deployments.
But they have rarely given detail on the operations, or described non-Lebanese militiamen as having been targeted.
Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority.
“That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war — I should say a theological war, a religious war — and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries,” Netanyahu told an international security forum.
“Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We’ll fight them. By preventing that — and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shiite militias — by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world.”
Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.
Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. President Bashar Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Under recent deals between Assad’s government and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shiite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents.
The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The Damascus government says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns.


Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million have been uprooted from their homes. AP
Updated 16 July 2018
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Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

  • Regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside
  • In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on an opposition-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.
The regime’s push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families left the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the opposition-held Idlib province in the north.
Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the UN and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to “liberate all of Syrian territories” of “terrorism.”
In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian regime has restored control of over 60 percent of previously opposition-held territory across the country.
Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad’s office said the two agreed that the “elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level” that could put an end to Syria’s war.
Syria’s regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists” and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.
The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.
In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since early Sunday, regime forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles, from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian regime Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.
The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where regime forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the fighters. Capturing the hill would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to Daesh.
Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa.
Pro-regime TV Al-Ikhbariya said 10 buses carrying 407 people left for northern Syria.
The station said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people was likely to be completed by Sunday.