After Syria airstrike, Hezbollah says Israel fears Islamic State defeat

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday criticized Israel’s airstrike in Syria early Friday morning, saying the Jewish state uses “all kinds of excuses” to justify its military operations.

The Lebanese Shiite leader was referring to the airstrike which Jerusalem said targeted a weapons convoy destined for Hezbollah. Syrian military forces fired missiles at the Israeli jets that carried out the strikes. One was reportedly intercepted by an Israeli Arrow missile battery.

Nasrallah said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “went to marry [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” during his recent trip to Moscow out of fear that the Islamic State would be defeated.

Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on March 9, where they discussed the situation in Syria.

“If the Islamic State loses, what will you do with Iran in Syria?” the Shiite militia leader asked.

He called on Syrian rebel groups to stop fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad because “it serves Israel and the United States.”

Netanyahu said Friday that Israel would continue to target weapon convoys.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 16, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / AMIR COHEN)

“Our policy is very consistent,” he stated in a Hebrew language video released to the press. “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah — when we have the intel and the operational capability — we act to prevent it. That’s how we’ve acted and how we will continue to act…and everyone needs to take this into account. Everyone.”

Meanwhile in Israel, two lawmakers responded to Russia’s summoning of Israel’s ambassador over the airstrike in Syria. Former general and Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben-Reuven said Russia’s reaction was a major shift in Moscow’s Syria policy, Army Radio reported.

Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben-Reuven in the Knesset on March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“The Russians clarified in the past that they will leave Israel to deal with the problem of Hezbollah, but summoning the ambassador to Moscow for a reprimand at the Foreign Ministry expresses a change in the Russian position,” Ben-Reuven said.

Russia summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren, demanding clarifications less than 24 hours after Israel struck targets in Syria.

Moscow is heavily involved in Syria and strongly supports the regime of President Bashar Assad, which is allied with Hezbollah.

Zionist Union MK Omer Bar Lev said that Israel’s cooperation with Russia is important, “but the minute their interest become different there won’t be any cooperation.”

“As of today their interests are with Assad and Iran,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

The Syrian Foreign Ministry earlier sent two letters to the UN secretary-general and to the president of the UN Security Council, calling the strikes a violation of international law, of UN resolutions and of Syrian sovereignty.

Syria called on the UN to “condemn the blatant Israeli aggression that is considered a violation of international law.”

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck several targets in Syria and were back in Israeli-controlled airspace when several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria toward the jets. One incoming missile was shot down by an Arrow defense battery, while two more landed in Israel, causing neither injury nor damage.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech from Beirut, Lebanon on May 12, 2016. (Screen capture: Press TV)

Assad’s army said the Israeli strikes were conducted to support “[Islamic State] terrorist gangs and in a desperate attempt to raise their deteriorating morale and divert attention away from the victories which Syrian Arab Army is making in the face of the terrorist organizations,” the statement read.

It also claimed it had shot down an Israeli warplane and hit a second one, assertions Israel said were false.

The firing of missiles from Syria toward Israeli aircraft is extremely rare, though Israeli military officials reported a shoulder-fired missile a few months ago.

Jordan, which borders both Israel and Syria, said parts of the missiles fell in its rural northern areas, including the Irbid district. The Jordanian military said the debris came from the Israeli interception of missiles fired from Syria. Radwan Otoum, the Irbid governor, told the state news agency Petra that the missile parts caused only minor damage.

Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic incidents of spillover fire that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Israel has responded to the errant fire with limited reprisals on Syrian positions.

The skies over Syria are now crowded, with Russian and Syrian aircraft backing Assad’s forces and a US-led coalition striking Islamic State and al-Qaeda targets.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations.

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