Israeli jets hit targets in Syria ‘to prevent Iranian drone attack’

In this January 21, 2019 photo, missiles fly over Damascus during an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military staged another late-night airstrike on Saturday, supposedly to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel. (AP file photo)
Updated 25 August 2019

Israeli jets hit targets in Syria ‘to prevent Iranian drone attack’

  • The airstrike pre-empted an Iranian plan to launch explosives-laden attack drones into Israel, says military
  • “Iran has no immunity anywhere. If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first," says Netanyahu.

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military attacked targets near Damascus late Saturday in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.
The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
Conricus said the Israeli attack took place in Aqraba, southeast of Damascus, and targeted “a number of terror targets and military facilities belonging to the Quds force as well as Shiite militias.”
He said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an “advanced attempt” to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said.
“We were able to thwart this attack with fighter jets,” he said, saying the Iranian attack was believed to be “very imminent.”
He said Israel’s chief of staff was meeting with senior officers and forces were on high alert near the Syrian frontier.
On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”
“Iran has no immunity anywhere,” he said. “If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.”

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israeli air strikes in Syria, expressed Washington’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself from the threat posed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the State Department said on Sunday.
“The secretary and the prime minister discussed how Iran is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten Israel and its neighbors,” the State Department said in a statement.
Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, most of them aimed at arms shipments believed to be headed from Iran to its Shiite proxy Hezbollah. Direct clashes between Israel and Iranian forces have been rare.
“This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months,” Conricus said. “It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force.”
Syrian state TV announced late Saturday that the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
“At 2330 (2030 GMT) anti-aircraft defenses detected enemy targets from Golan heading toward the area around Damascus,” the state news agency SANA quoted a military official.
“The aggression was immediately confronted and so far the majority of the enemy Israeli missiles have been destroyed before reaching their targets,” the SANA report added.
“The aggression is still going on and the air defense is able to counter the targets, dropping most of them” in the south of the country, it said.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has repeatedly vowed that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, where Iranian troops have been fighting in support of President Bashar Assad during the country’s eight-year civil war.
In recent days, US officials have said that Israeli strikes have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.

 


France to press to drop Sudan from US terror blacklist

Updated 7 min 4 sec ago

France to press to drop Sudan from US terror blacklist

  • Jean-Yves Le Drian is the second top western diplomat to visit Sudan this month
  • SUNA says Le Drian will meet with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the newly appointed Sovereign Council

KHARTOUM: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that France will press to drop Sudan from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism and to support efforts to reintegrate the country into the international community.
Le Drian was in Khartoum for a one-day visit, the first such trip to Sudan by France's top diplomat in more than a decade.
His visit comes as the northeast African country transitions to civilian rule after decades of authoritarianism.
"We will use our influence to ensure that Sudan is removed from this list," Le Drian said at a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Asma Mohamed Abdalla after the two held talks.
"It is the way to ensure that we can consider a new relationship (for Sudan) with financial institutions, everything is obviously linked," he said, asked by AFP if France would back efforts to remove Sudan from Washington's blacklist.
Decades of US blacklisting along with a trade embargo imposed on Sudan in 1997 has kept overseas investors away from the country, in turn isolating it from the global economy.
Sudan's worsening economic situation was the key trigger for nationwide protests that finally led to the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.
Washington lifted the sanctions in October 2017, but kept Sudan in the terrorism list along with North Korea, Iran and Syria.
Washington's measures were imposed for Khartoum's alleged support for Islamist militant groups.
Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden resided in Sudan between 1992 and 1996.
Le Drian said the pivotal role played by Sudan's army in the uprising against Bashir would help in removing Sudan from the US blacklist.
"The way the army perceived its role during this period, (that) goes in the direction of removing Sudan from this list," he said.
The army overthrew Bashir in a palace coup on April 11 on the back of months of nationwide protests.
But a military council seized power after ousting him and for months resisted calls from protesters to transfer it to a civilian administration.
Only last month after sustained agitation, a joint civilian-military sovereign council was sworn in to oversee Sudan's transition to civilian rule, the key demand of protesters.
On September 8, Sudan's first cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was sworn in to run the daily affairs of the country.
During his short visit to Khartoum, Le Drian also met Hamdok and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the civilian-military ruling council.
Le Drian also reiterated French support for Sudan's priorities such as rebuilding the economy and striking peace agreements with rebel groups in conflict zones of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.