Israel says hits Syrian army posts in response to drone incursion

An Israeli soldier stands guard on the Israel-Syria border in the annexed-Golan Heights, where sirens were set off following the shooting down of a drone that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Israel says hits Syrian army posts in response to drone incursion

BEIRUT/JERUSALEM: Israeli forces attacked Syrian military positions near the Golan Heights frontier in the early hours of Thursday, causing limited damage, Syrian state media said.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for an incursion on Wednesday of a Syrian drone which was shot down over northern Israel.
“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said.
Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-story structure and a five-story structure amid hilly terrain.
Syrian state media said the positions targeted on Thursday were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
“The aircraft of the Israeli enemy fired several missiles in the direction of some army positions,” state media cited a Syrian military source as saying. At least some of the missiles were thwarted by Syrian air defenses, they said.
Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of its arch enemy Iran during the seven-year war in Syria. Its air force has struck scores of targets it describes as Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia on Wednesday that Israel would not seek to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but that Moscow, his key ally, should encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.
Israel has been on high alert as Syrian government forces advance on rebels in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel worries Assad could let his Iranian allies entrench near its lines or that Syrian forces may defy a 1974 Golan demilitarization.
Earlier this week, state media said air defense systems struck an Israeli warplane and shot down Israeli missiles targeting the T4 air base in Homs province. Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out that strike.
With the help of heavy Russian air power, the Syrian army has seized swathes of Daraa province from insurgents in the south in the past three weeks. The offensive is expected to turn next to rebel parts of Quneitra closer to the Golan.


UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

Kurd demonstrators stage a protest rally in Syria’s western Afrin region bordering Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 24 sec ago
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UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

  • Egeland: Russia, Turkey ‘still working out deal on demilitarized buffer zone’
  • Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists

The deal to avoid a Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said on Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high.

“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, said in Geneva.

Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its 3 million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.

While briefing the task force about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they “are still working... on the details,” Egeland said.

He expressed hope it was an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.

“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland said. 

“We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”

The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was “relieved” for now.

“The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions,” he said.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has welcomed the Russian-Turkey agreement agreement signed in Sochi, calling it a “step on the road to making a political solution possible.”

Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after the recent agreement.  

It “will take Syria in the next weeks and months to a new phase,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech to supporters. 

He said the deal’s success will depend whether it’s properly implemented. “We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said.

“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability.

“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said.

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.”

Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.