Israel vows to act against Iranian threats to annihilate it

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 72nd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on September 19, 2017. (AFP / DON EMMERT)
Updated 20 September 2017

Israel vows to act against Iranian threats to annihilate it

UNITED NATIONS: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran Tuesday that as long as it seeks Israel’s destruction it will face no fiercer enemy than the Jewish state and he vowed to prevent Tehran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria and from producing weapons in Syria or Lebanon.
The Israeli leader said he had a message for Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “The light of Israel will never be extinguished. ... Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril.”
He again called for the “dangerous” nuclear deal with Iran to be scrapped or fixed, warning world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly that if nothing changes Tehran will follow North Korea and produce hundreds of nuclear weapons.
“Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability,” Netanyahu said. “Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation.”
Netanyahu called for the deal to be reworked to eliminate its expiration dates on certain provisions that limit Iran’s nuclear activity. In reality, Iran has little incentive to negotiate such concessions.
The Israeli leader also accused Iran of “conducting a campaign of conquest across the Middle East,” spreading a “curtain of tyranny and terror over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.” And he said it is developing ballistic missiles “to threaten the entire world.”
But Netanyahu said he also had a simple message for the Iranian people: “You are not our enemy, you are our friends.” And he repeated “you are our friends” in Farsi, one of Iran’s main languages.
“One day, my Iranian friends, you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you ... and when that day of liberation finally comes, the friendship between our two ancient peoples will surely flourish once again,” he said.
Netanyahu started his speech on a positive note, saying Israel is in the midst of “a great revolution — a revolution in Israel’s standing among nations.”
He said this is happening because “so many nations have woken up to what Israel can do for them” as a leader in innovation, technology, and in recognizing its “exceptional capabilities in fighting terrorism.”
As for the United Nations, Netanyahu said for too long it has been “the epicenter of global anti-Semitism.”
“And while it may take many years, I am absolutely confident that the revolution in Israel’s ties with individual nations will ultimately be reflected in this hall of nations,” he said.
Netanyanu said he made that statement because of the “marked change” in the US government’s position.
“Thanks to President (Donald) Trump’s unequivocal support for Israel in this body, that positive change is gathering force,” he said.


Turkey raises migrant pressure on EU over Syria conflict

Updated 29 February 2020

Turkey raises migrant pressure on EU over Syria conflict

  • Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the Idlib region on Thursday
  • Erdogan may travel next week to Moscow for talks

PAZARKULE: Turkey vowed the Syrian regime will “pay a price” for dozens of dead Turkish soldiers and raised pressure on the EU over the conflict by threatening to let thousands of migrants enter the bloc.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing forces in the Syria conflict, held high-level talks to try to defuse tensions that have sparked fears of a broader war and a new migration crisis for Europe.
Greek police clashed on Saturday with thousands of migrants who were already gathering on the border to try to enter Europe.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday vowed to allow refugees to travel on to Europe from Turkey which he said can no longer handle new waves of people fleeing war-torn Syria. It already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
The comments were his first after Turkish 34 troops were killed since Thursday in the northern Syria province of Idlib where Moscow-backed Syrian regime forces are battling to retake the last rebel holdout area.
“What did we do yesterday (Friday)? We opened the doors,” Erdogan said in Istanbul. “We will not close those doors ...Why? Because the European Union should keep its promises.”
He was referring to a 2016 deal with the European Union to stop refugee flows in exchange for billions of euros in aid.
In Athens, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an emergency meeting to discuss tensions on the border with Turkey.
The Turkish leader said 18,000 migrants have amassed on the Turkish borders with Europe since Friday, adding that the number could reach as many as 30,000 on Saturday.
Thousands of migrants who remained stuck on the Turkish-Greek border were in skirmishes with Greek police on Saturday who fired tear gas to push them back, according to AFP photographer in the western province of Edirne.
The migrants massed at the Pazarkule border crossing responded by hurling stones at the police.
In 2015, Greece became the main EU entry point for one million migrants, most of them refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. The pressure to cope with the influx split the European Union.
“Greece yesterday came under an organized, mass, illegal attack... a violation of our borders and endured it,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Saturday after the emergency meeting with Mitsotakis.
“We averted more than 4,000 attempts of illegal entrance to our land borders.”
A Greek police source said security forces fired tear gas Saturday morning against migrants massing on the Turkish side because the migrants had set fires and opened holes in the border fences.
Armed policemen and soldiers are patrolling the Evros river shores — a common crossing point — and are warning with loudspeakers not to enter Greek territory.
Greek authorities were also using drones to monitor the migrants moves.
Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Skai television the situation was under control
“I believe that the borders have been protected,” he said.
According to Hellenic Coast Guard, from early Friday to early Saturday 180 migrants reached the islands of Eastern Aegean, Lesbos and Samos in sea crossings.
The UN said nearly a million people — half of them children — have been displaced in the bitter cold by the fighting in northwest Syria since December.
Turkey said that Turkish forces destroyed a “chemical warfare facility,” just south of Aleppo, in retaliation its soldiers were killed by Syrian regime fire in Idlib.
“As of last night, we blew up a depot housing seven chemical products,” Erdogan said. “We would not want things to reach this point but as they force us to do this, they will pay a price.”
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources inside the war-torn country, said that Turkey instead hit a military airport in eastern Aleppo, where the monitoring group says there are no chemical weapons.
Thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the Idlib on Thursday, the biggest Turkish military loss on the battlefield in recent years. A 34th Turkish soldier has since died.
The latest incident has raised further tensions between Ankara and Moscow, whose relationship has been tested by violations of a 2018 deal to prevent a regime offensive on Idlib.
As part of the agreement, Ankara set up 12 observation posts in the province but Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces — backed by Russian air power — have pressed on with a relentless campaign to take back the remaining chunks of the territory.
On Friday, Erdogan spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in a bid to scale down the tensions, with the Kremlin saying the two expressed “serious concern” about the situation.
Erdogan may travel next week to Moscow for talks, according to the Kremlin.
Despite being on opposite ends of the war, Turkey, which backs several rebel groups in Syria, and key regime ally Russia are trying to find a political solution.
The United States and the United Nations have called for an end to the Syrian offensive in Idlib and the deadly flare-up raising fresh concerns for civilians caught up in the escalation of the eight-year civil war.