Netanyahu warns Assad against Iran entrenchment in Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Netanyahu warns Assad against Iran entrenchment in Syria

  • “We will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria,” Netanyahu told reporters

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday he would be “risking the future” of his regime if he allowed Iran to be entrenched militarily in his country.
“We will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria,” he told reporters alongside visiting US pointman on Iran policy, Brian Hook.
The two men called for an extension of an arms embargo on Iran, archfoe of both their countries, which expires in October.
“I say to the ayatollahs in Tehran: ‘Israel will continue to take the actions necessary to prevent you from creating another terror and military front against Israel’” in neighboring Syria, the premier said.
“And I say to Bashar Assad: ‘You’re risking the future of your country and your regime,” Netanyahu said.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of its civil war in 2011, targeting government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
It rarely confirms details of operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of Assad is a threat to the Jewish state and that it will keep up such attacks.
“We are absolutely resolved to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in our immediate vicinity,” said Netanyahu.
Hook focused on the arms embargo, put in place as part of a multilateral nuclear accord signed by Tehran, Washington and other major powers in 2015.
A lifting of that embargo would allow Iran “to freely import fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships, submarines, large-calibre artillery systems and missiles of certain ranges,” the US envoy said.
“Iran will then be in a position to export these weapons and their technologies to their proxies such as Hezbollah, (Palestinian groups) Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Shiite militia groups in Iraq and Shiite militant networks in Bahrain and to the Houthis in Yemen,” Hook said.
“The last thing that this region needs is more Iranian weapons.”
The US unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord in 2018.
Separately on Tuesday, Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, said it had identified an Arab Israeli couple attempting to recruit for the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
The Shin Bet said journalist Beirut Al-Hamud and her husband, Bilal Al-Bizari, “were recruiting Israeli citizens to carry out activities on behalf of Hezbollah,” without detailing any specific planned attacks.
The agency said that Hamud had contacts with Hezbollah in Morocco and Tunisia between 2008 and 2012 and had attempted to recruit Arab Israelis in Turkey last year.


Jets hit Libya’s Al-Watiya Air Base where Turkey may build base

An image grab taken from a video released on July 3, 2020, by the Turkish Defence Ministry shows Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (C) greeting Libyan officials upon his arrival in Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 39 min 10 sec ago

Jets hit Libya’s Al-Watiya Air Base where Turkey may build base

  • Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa’s supply lines and troop buildups

BENGHAZI: Warplanes struck overnight at an air base that was recently recaptured by Libya’s internationally recognized government from eastern forces with help from Turkey, a military source with the eastern forces and a resident nearby said.
The strikes were carried out by “unknown aircraft,” the military source with the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said.
A resident at the nearby town of Zintan said explosions were heard from the direction of the base.
Al-Watiya’s recapture in May by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli marked the start of a sudden collapse of the LNA’s 14-month assault to seize the capital and its retreat along the coast to the new frontlines.
Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa’s supply lines and troop buildups.
A Turkish source said last month that Turkey was in talks with the GNA to establish two bases in Libya, one of them at Watiya, the most important air base in western Libya.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in Tripoli for meetings with the GNA on Friday and Saturday and Akar swore to do all that was necessary to help it, a Turkish Defense Ministry statement said.
Last month, the US said Russia had sent at least 14 MiG29 and Su-24 warplanes to an LNA base via Syria, where their Russian airforce markings were removed.
Turkish involvement in Libya has also angered France and Greece and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned of new sanctions on Ankara.
The GNA and LNA are now mobilizing forces at the new frontlines between the cities of Misrata and Sirte.