Ten killed in Israeli attack in Syria following rocket fire

A battery of Israel's Iron Dome defence system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, stands in Mount Hermon in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on January 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 02 June 2019

Ten killed in Israeli attack in Syria following rocket fire

  • Two rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon late Saturday
  • The Israeli attack left three Syrian soldiers and seven foreign fighters dead

BEIRUT: Israel carried out air strikes in Syria on Sunday in response to rare rocket fire from the neighboring country, its military said, with a war monitor reporting 10 killed including Syrian soldiers and foreign fighters.
Israel’s army said two rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights late Saturday and one had been “located within Israeli territory.”
In response, the army attacked “two Syrian artillery batteries, a number of observation and intelligence posts on the Golan Heights, and an SA-2 aerial defense battery,” its statement said.
The Israeli attack left three Syrian soldiers and seven foreign fighters dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
According to the Britain-based war monitor, which did not specify the nationality of the foreign fighters, they died in missile strikes close the capital Damascus where Syrian troops, Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters are stationed.
Syrian anti-aircraft defenses fired against “enemy missiles” from Israel targeting positions in southwest Damascus, the official SANA news agency quoted a military source as saying.
The Israeli army said its own aerial defense systems were activated due to the Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but none of the Syrian fire hit Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the strike.
“We won’t tolerate fire at our territory and will respond forcefully to any aggression against us,” he said.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.
Israel says it is determined to prevent its arch foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran backs President Bashar Assad in the country’s eight-year war which has killed more than 370,000 people.
The Jewish state insists that it has the right to continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah out of self-defense.
On May 27 Syria said Israel carried out a missile attack in Quneitra, in what the Israeli army said was retaliation for anti-aircraft fire targeting one of its fighter jets.
Syrian air defense batteries also intercepted projectiles from Israel and downed a number of them on May 17, according to SANA.
The Syrian province of Quneitra includes the Golan Heights, most of which is occupied and annexed by Israel.
In January, Israel hit Iranian positions in Syria, saying it was in response to Iranian missile fire from the war-torn country. According to the Observatory, 21 people, mainly Iranians, were killed in those raids.
The latest reported strike comes amid soaring tensions between Iran and the United States.
The stand-off had been simmering since the United States last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear treaty which Iran reached with major world powers.
In recent weeks the United States has accused Iran of alleged threats and deployed an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf.


Turkey and Qatar on course to clash over Levant basin drilling

A Turkish drilling ship sails toward Cyprus in the Mediterranean. (AP/File)
Updated 4 min 55 sec ago

Turkey and Qatar on course to clash over Levant basin drilling

ANKARA: After Turkey’s public broadcaster TRT and pro-government Daily Sabah harshly hit back at Qatar-owned Al Jazeera over anti-Turkish coverage, another fault line is emerging between the two countries over their activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Qatar, once a very close ally to Turkey in its regional policies, appears to have pivoted by involving itself in offshore gas drilling in Cyprus — a red line for Ankara.
On Sunday, Qatar Petroleum also announced the successful startup of a refinery venture in Egypt which is expected to reach full production level by the end of the first quarter of next year.
Such increased engagement in the Mediterranean is seen by many as a move to consolidate the country’s footprint, despite risking Turkish relations.
Dr. Michael Tanchum, senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), said that it was important not to overstate the divergence between Ankara and Doha, but also to recognize that the Turkey-Qatar partnership had its limits.
“Qatar’s refinery venture in Egypt goes back to 2012. As for its share in the drilling operations off the southern coast of Cyprus, Qatar made a strategic business choice to partner with Exxon. Of course, there are political implications,” he told Arab News.
The refinery venture project cost $4.4 billion and will chiefly produce Euro V refined products, such as jet fuel and diesel.
However, for Tanchum, Qatar’s position in the global hydrocarbons market creates business imperatives that Doha must consider in addition to the parameters of its geopolitical partnership with Turkey.
“Qatar’s presence in the waters off the southern coast of Cyprus may turn out in the end to be beneficial to Turkey,” he also added.
According to Tanchum, “Qatar may be able to act as a bridge in the Eastern Mediterranean and help provide Turkey a role in the marketing of Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons, providing a mechanism that would allow Turkey to reduce its naval presence south of the island.”
Turkey has its own drilling vessels in the area and two of the seven ships that hold drilling activities in the region are currently Turkish. The country aims to open five new deep-sea wells by next year.

BACKGROUND

In 2017, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum signed an exploration and production sharing contract with Greek Cyprus, allowing the companies to start drilling in the contested offshore Block 10 area. ExxonMobil has since discovered a huge natural gas reservoir in the disputed maritime zone.

However, the simmering Cypriot conflict is a political and practical hurdle to consider, as the Greek side has awarded international oil and drilling companies — Italy’s Eni and France’s Total — with exploration rights in the area it declared as its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
This zone, which mostly clashes with the EEZ declared by Turkish Cyprus, is believed to have rich hydrocarbon reserves, and Turkey’s presence in waters off the south of Cyprus has been heavily criticized by the EU and is considered “illegal” by the US.
Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow from the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that the current rift between Turkey and Qatar was surprising, and that although Turkey paid high-profile visits to Qatar recently, it cannot change the country’s foreign policy paradigms.
“Turkey cannot change the basic traits of Qatari foreign policy, which is very active and has close contacts at times with opposing sides to various conflicts in the Middle East. Qatar also uses its vast resources as an insurance policy, to make sure that at any given point there are enough actors that are interested in its survival as an independent entity,” she told Arab News.
In 2017, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum signed an exploration and production sharing contract with Greek Cyprus, allowing the companies to start drilling in the contested offshore Block 10 area. ExxonMobil has since discovered a huge natural gas reservoir in the disputed maritime zone.