Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive – Israeli Strikes Response to ‘Syria’s Surrender to Iran’

Tuesday, 10 April, 2018 - 08:15 -

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive – Israeli Strikes Response to ‘Syria’s Surrender to Iran’

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Destruction in Homs city, Syria. (Reuters)
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali
Despite Israel’s traditional refusal to officially comment on the recent air strikes in Syria, several of its officials have made comments that implicitly reveal that it may have indeed been behind the attack on the regime’s T-4 air base in Homs.

Former chief of staff Moshe Yaalon and a number of former senior officers gave several strong hints on Monday that Israel was indeed behind the strikes.

They delivered several messages that Israel has many purposes that are not limited to preventing the smuggling of arms to “Hezbollah”.

They stressed that Israel will not remain an idle spectator, but it has taken it upon itself to play an active role in the developments in the region.

Political and military circles said that the strikes were linked to the Ankara summit that was held last week between the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Israel believes that Iran obtained from this summit the support and backing to remain in Syria, they explained. This will harm Israel and the United States’ interests.

They therefore did not hesitate in criticizing the American administration of President Donald Trump that “is hesitating in remaining in Syria, but is more inclined to withdraw” from the country.

The air strikes are a message that “Israel will not remain silent over this situation and will not allow it to succeed.”

Sources quoted senior Israeli security officials as saying that Iran considers the Ankara summit a green light for it to continue on cementing its presence in Syria.

“This development is worrying for Israel,” they stressed. The summit was aimed at dividing the spoils in Syria after the war ends.

“This is a dangerous development in the region,” they added, while also questioning if Russia really had any real interest in bolstering Iran’s position in Syria.

Yaalon told Israeli military radio on Monday morning that “red lines” should be placed in Syria. He did however object to Minister Yoav Galant’s call to assassinate Syrian regime head Bashar Assad.

Retired Major General Amiram Levin, meanwhile, did not confirm that Israel carried out the strikes, adding however: “It seems very clear who did it.”

“The problem with the US and Israel is that they only respond to developments. They do not have a long-term policy,” he added.

“We must cooperate with the US in order to overthrow Assad. Responses, regardless of how many they are, remain nothing more than responses and this is not enough,” he stressed.

“Israel has means, not just military ones, to work with the US. We must cooperate and oust Assad from power in Syria,” he stated.

Military analyst Amos Harel revealed that Israel had twice struck the military base, once in March 2017 and another time in February. The February attack was in retaliation to an Iranian drone entering Israeli airspace. In a rare occurrence, Israel announced that it had struck targets in Syria.

This week’s attacks may have been part of Israel’s setting of new red lines in Syria linked to thwarting Iran’s presence in the country.

Prior to the strikes, Galant had stressed on Sunday the need to get rid of Assad, whom he called the “angel of death” because he had used chemical weapons against his people on several occasions.

“Assad is the Syrian angel of death. There is no doubt that the world will be a better place without him. Five days ago, the world marked the Holocaust anniversary and the world once again was given a terrible reminder in Syria,” he stated.

“The killer in Damascus is still here and he is using gas to mercilessly murder women and children. The leaders of the world must intervene and fast,” he demanded.

Defense Minister Avidgor Lieberman added that “all sorts of red lines” have been crossed.

“We are watching the developments unfold and are not standing idly by,” he continued.

He accused Iran of controlling developments in Syria and of seizing the country.

Security sources revealed that Israeli intelligence was closely monitoring the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The question remains whether the regime had again used sarin gas, which Assad had used to target rebels in Khan Sheikhoun a year ago. The attack in April 2017 prompted Trump to order a strike against a Syrian air base.

Israeli experts believe that Assad had used 98 percent of his large chemical arsenal, which included nerve and mustard gas. The arsenal was originally stockpiled to use against Israel should it threaten the regime. It has however left limited quantities of chlorine and sarin gas to use against the rebels to defend the advances it had achieved against them.