Israel bombs Iranian targets in Syria

The bombardment hit Iranian and Syrian targets around Damascus. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 January 2019

Israel bombs Iranian targets in Syria

  • The bombardment hit Iranian and Syrian targets around Damascus
  • At least 11 fighters including two Syrians were killed in the raid

JEDDAH: Israel launched a wave of cruise missile and guided bomb attacks early on Monday against sites in Syria operated by Hezbollah and the Quds Force, the foreign unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The targets included munitions storage facilities, an intelligence site and a military training camp. Israeli jets then targeted Syrian defense batteries after coming under fire. The Russian military said 30 cruise missiles had been shot down.

Eleven people were killed in the pre-dawn strikes, which lasted for nearly an hour and were the most intense Israeli attacks since May, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

Russia said four Syrian troops were among those killed in the airstrikes, which also damaged infrastructure at Damascus airport.

The attacks followed a previous night of cross-border fire, which began when Iranian troops fired an Iranian-made surface-to-surface missile from an area near Damascus at a ski resort in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the missile had been smuggled into Syria specifically for that purpose. It was of a type that had not been used in the Syrian was and had “no business” being in Syria, he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “pounded” the Iranian sites in response to the missile attack. “We don’t allow such acts of aggression to go unanswered as Iran attempts to establish itself militarily in Syria,” he said. “Whoever tries to harm us, we will harm them.”

An official from the so-called “Axis of Resistance” — led by Iran and made up of Syria, Iraqi Shiite militias, Hezbollah and other groups — said: “The conditions are getting closer to war every day and a war might break out on several fronts.”

Israeli political and military leaders had previously refused to confirming attacks, and have only recently acknowledged hundreds of strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent years.

Monday’s announcement went a step further, reporting the strikes in real time and detailing the targets. There is speculation in Israel that the new openness may be linked to domestic politics before elections in April.

Former defense minister Moshe Yaalon said the military had no choice but to comment on the strikes after Netanyahu took public credit. Yaalon said he supported the strikes but not the “chatter” around them, and he accused Netanyahu of playing politics with Israel’s security.

“Unfortunately ... everything is connected to his political survival,” Yaalon said. “What does the publication give us? Can someone tell me what the benefit is, besides politics?”


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 6 min 26 sec ago

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”