Netanyahu warns foes after Israeli retaliatory strikes in Syria

Above, an Israeli soldier aboard an armored personnel carrier as it maneuvers in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the Israel-Syria frontier August 4, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 August 2020

Netanyahu warns foes after Israeli retaliatory strikes in Syria

  • Israel launched air strikes on military targets in southern Syria late Monday
  • Monday’s actions were in response to an increased threat from the Iran-backed Hezbollah

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged a tough response to any threats against Israel after the Jewish state struck Syrian military targets in retaliation for an attempted attack in the occupied Golan Heights.
“We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. We will do what is necessary in order to defend ourselves,” he said during a tour of a military facility in central Israel.
“These are not vain words; they have the weight of the State of Israel and the (military) behind them and this should be taken seriously,” the veteran premier added.
Israel launched air strikes on military targets in southern Syria late Monday. The army said it was retaliating after an attempt to lay explosives in the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Syrian state-run news agency Sana said Israeli helicopters rocketed Syrian army positions near Quneitra in the south but caused only material damage. It also said air defenses had gone into action near the Syrian capital.
Tensions are already high between bitter rivals Israel and Syria.
Last month, Israeli army helicopters struck military targets in southern Syria in retaliation for earlier “munitions” fire toward Israel.
Earlier Monday, the Israeli army said it had killed four men laying explosives near the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights.
Several Israeli media outlets reported that Monday’s actions were in response to an increased threat from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which has a significant presence in Syria.
Last month, five Iran-backed fighters were killed in an Israeli missile strike south of Damascus, according to Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Then last Monday, Israel said it had thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by up to five Hezbollah gunmen, a claim denied by the Iran-backed group.
Israel reported an exchange of fire that forced the “terrorists” back into Lebanon. It said it fired artillery across the heavily guarded border for “defensive” purposes.
Since 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria, targeting government troops and allied Iranian and Hezbollah forces and vowing to end Iran’s military presence in Syria.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 29 min 36 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.