Netanyahu denies Russia told Israel to halt airstrikes in Syria

BEIJING — Russia has not changed its policy on coordination with the Israeli air force in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, denying reports that Moscow had told Israel to end airstrikes in the war-torn country and vowing to continue attacking weapons convoys.

“It’s simply incorrect to say the Russians are changing their policy toward us,” he said.

The report on Russia changing its stance came after an Israeli airstrike on Friday to which Syria responded by firing anti-aircraft missiles at the departing Israeli warplanes. The Israeli strike reportedly nearly missed a Russian asset and Moscow summoned the Israeli envoy following the exchange.

Netanyahu said that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a March 9 meeting that Israel will continue to thwart attempts by Iran and its terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah, to smuggle advanced weapons to Lebanon via Syria.

“My policy is consistent, and this is also what I told Putin,” the prime minister said during a visit to China. “We will not allow Israel to be attacked from Syrian territory and we will not tolerate the transfer of advanced weaponry of those entering Syria — Hezbollah — to the extent that we detect it.”

Netanyahu said Israel was targeting Iranian attempts to move advanced arms within Syria, and that he had told Putin as much during their Moscow sit-down.

“It’s our policy to strike at the convoys of sophisticated weaponry, and the Iranians continue with them. We will continue to attack whenever the Iranians smuggle advanced arms. Therefore we need this personal connection [with Putin], which is important for Israel’s national security,” Netanyahu said.

“If there’s intelligence and operational feasibility, we strike, and so it will continue,” he told reporters in his Beijing hotel as he wrapped up the official part of his three-day visit to Chinese capital.

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

Israel reportedly launched several attacks on targets in Syria in recent days, one of which on Friday nearly hit Russian troops stationed in the area. Less than 24 hours later Moscow summoned Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to note its protest. Syria’s ambassador to the UN later said that Russia had changed its policy and no longer grants Israel freedom of action over Syrian skies.

Israel officially acknowledged one strike on Syrian territory.

Israel does not inform the Russian forces stationed in Syria ahead of attack there, out of fear for the Israeli pilots, according to an Israeli source.

“It’s not simple. We are very careful not to hit whoever is not supposed to be hit,” Netanyahu told reporters travelling with him in China.

The Israeli-Russian process to prevent an accidental clash, in which officials from both sides ensure that each others’ forces do not get in each other’s way, requires constant maintenance, he added. “I am not traveling to Moscow simply to chat,” he said.

The Israeli military said its aircraft on Friday 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.

The army said the Arrow was deployed — a first for the system — against the Syrian surface-to-air missile because the projectile “behaved like a ballistic threat.”

The Arrow 3 missile defense system that was delivered to the Israeli Air Force on January 18, 2017. (Defense Ministry)

Syria complained to the United Nations secretary-general and to the director of the UN Security Council calling the Israeli attacks a violation of international law and of Syrian sovereignty.

The Syrian 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,” a statement read.

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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ASSAD TO ISRAEL: WE HAVE A RIGHT TO DEFEND OUR BORDERS

 

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Syrian-President-Assad-Were-counting-on-Russia-to-prevent-a-conflict-with-Israel-484715

 

Syrian President Bashar Assad warned Israel on Monday that his country has a right to defend its borders.

“Defending our borders is our right, and it’s our duty, not only our right,” he told Russian reporters in Damascus according Russian news site Sputnik.

 

Assad also told Russian parliament members, who paid an official visit to the capital on Monday, that he was counting on Moscow to prevent Israel from attacking his country in the future.

“We are counting on Russia to prevent a conflict with Israel,” Assad was quoted as saying by several Russian media outlets.
Interfax also quoted him as saying that “Damascus counts on Russia to take a role in order to prevent Israel from attacking Syria in the future.”

The Syrian president also told the officials that he was supportive of a Russian proposition to help reach an agreement in its country, that is still in the throes of its bloody civil war as it has been for the past six years.

Russian website LifeNews reported that Assad also said that the current support Syria has been receiving from Russia sufficed, but that he was confident that Damascus could easily receive additional support from Moscow if the need arose.

By openly alluding to a future conflict with Israel, Assad has, for the first time, officially reacted to the recent escalation between Israel and Syria.

He spoke after Syrian government forces fired an anti-aircraft missile at Israel Air Force jets during an air-strike last Friday to halt the flow of advanced weapons to Hezbollah near Palmyra. By openly referring to a conflict with Israel, Assad, for the first time, has officially reacted to his country’s recent escalation with Israel.

This was the most serious incident to take place between the two countries since the Syrian Civil War first started in 2011.

On Friday, Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow to defend the air-strike. According to media reports, the strike occurred very close to Russian troops.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Monday denied a report in the Russian news agency Interfax that Koren had been summoned for the second time to speak with Russian officials.

On Sunday night, Syria envoy to the UN Bashar Jaafari spoke about the strike on Syrian TV. According to Ynet, he said Russia had sent Israel a clear message of displeasure and that it wanted Israeli to stop its air-strikes against Syrian rebel forces fearing it would cause an escalation of hostilities.

Israel and Russia have a mechanism in place so that any defensive Israeli air-strikes against Syria would not put Russian troops in harm’s way.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council Hussam Edin Aala condemned the IAF strike, and warned that with such actions Israel was supporting terrorism.
“The military aggression by Israel inside Syrian land on the 17th of March is proof of the support Israel provides to terrorist groups,” Aala said in Geneva on Monday. “This aggression for us is a violation of the charter of the United Nations, international law and UN Security Council resolutions. It is a great threat of international peace and security.”
Israel has said the air-strike was necessary to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah. It is concerned by the actions of both Hezbollah and Iran in Syria, particularly near the Golan Heights border.
“When we detect attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, and we have the intelligence and feasibility to carry out an operation, we will work to prevent it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday.

At the UNHRC, however, Aala alleged that Israel was helping the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra. The group is fighting the Syrian government forces, but also has ties to al-Qaida.
Separately, Aala also attacked Israel for treating wounded Syrians in its hospitals.
“It [Israel] wants to give a humanitarian face to the way it has treated terrorists from al-Nusra in Israeli hospitals,” he said.
He further called on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, which it recaptured from Syria in the Six Day War.

The UNHRC is expected to pass a resolution at the end of this week that echoes those calls. It does so at every session.
Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, and during his trip to Washington last month, Netanyahu asked the Trump administration to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel, particularly in light of the Syrian civil war.

Israel will continue to defend its citizens, says UN envoy in response to Syria threats

Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon hit back at the Syrian envoy to the world body on Monday, calling him hypocritical for describing Israel’s airstrike Friday on a Hezbollah weapons convoy in Syrian territory as a “terrorist operation” while boasting of Syria’s retaliatory missile attacks as a game-changer.

“It is the peak of hypocrisy for the ambassador of a regime that massacres its own people to level such accusations at us,” said Danon in a statement early Monday.

“Israel will continue to defend its citizens and will act against any attempt to harm them,” he vowed.

In an early Friday morning operation, Israeli jets hit an arms transfer meant for Hezbollah near Palmyra, with Syrian air defenses firing missiles at the planes. One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense battery, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system. It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, right, listens to speakers during a meeting of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations Friday. The General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to condemn the Syrian crackdown. (photo credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Bashar al-Jaafari (right) at the UN General Assembly at the United Nations (AP/Kathy Willens)

Speaking on Syrian state TV on Sunday, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, said the Syrian response was “appropriate and in line with Israel’s terrorist operation,” and that Israel “will now think a million times [before striking again],” according to a translation cited in Ynet.

“Syria’s forceful response to the Israeli attacks changed the rules of the game,” he said.

The comment emphasized the escalating tensions between Damascus and Jerusalem in recent days and came hours before Israel reportedly carried out a number of strikes overnight Sunday-Monday, including on yet another Hezbollah weapons convoy.

Syria media reported early Monday that Israeli jets took out a number of targets near the Lebanon-Syria border. The reports have not been confirmed.

This came hours before an Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems for targeting the Israeli aircraft during the bombing run Friday.

“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman said on Israel Radio.

Israeli officials have warned of the possibility Hezbollah and Iran could attempt to set up a base to attack Israel near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, where he asked the Kremlin to make sure Iran does not gain a foothold in the area.

Israel has also repeatedly vowed to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring any advanced weaponry and several strikes on such convoys over the years since the Syrian civil war began in 2011 have been attributed to Israel. Jerusalem has also claimed several of the raids, including Friday’s.

“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Liberman said Sunday.

“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hezbollah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do.”

Iran: Israel’s ‘aggression’ in Syria proves it’s aligned with ‘terrorists’

Iran on Saturday denounced Israeli “aggression” over its airstrikes in Syria early Friday, and claimed Jerusalem’s interests were aligned with those of Syrian “terrorists.”

According to a report on Iran’s Press TV news channel, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi questioned the timing of the Israeli operation “at a time when [Syria’s] army and the anti-terror front have the upper hand against bloodthirsty terrorists, driving them back from cities and villages one after another.”

This, he said, proved that Israel shared interests with those of rebel groups, which Iran and Syria refer to as terrorists.

Qassemi called on the UN to condemn Israel’s “aggression” and to prevent further “acts of violation of peace and security by the aggressive and rogue Zionist regime.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday the Israeli strikes on several targets in Syria early that day targeted weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and that the Jewish State would do the same again if necessary.

The Israeli airstrike prompted retaliatory missile launches, in the most serious incident between Syria and the Jewish state since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near the desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.

 An Israeli F-16 takes flight through cloudy skies. (Hagar Amibar/Israeli Air Force)

The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar unfounded claims in the past.

Netanyahu said in footage aired on Israel’s major television networks: “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it.

“That’s how it was yesterday and that’s how we shall continue to act,” he added.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry 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.”

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.

Israel said to strike Syria for second time in 24 hours, amid threats from Damascus

Israel is said to have struck Syria overnight Sunday-Monday, the second strike in 24 hours and third in three days as tensions escalated between the two countries over the weekend.

Syria media reported early Monday that Israeli jets took out a number of targets near the Lebanon-Syria border including a Hezbollah weapons convoy and Syrian military sites.

The reports have not been confirmed.

Earlier Sunday, an Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia, an attack that came two days after Israeli jets, in an early Friday morning operation, hit an arms transfer meant for Hezbollah near Palmyra, with Syrian air defenses firing missiles at the planes.

One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense battery, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system. It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

On Sunday evening, Syria’s ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said Syria’s response to Friday’s strike was a “game-changer.”

Speaking on Syrian state TV, Jaafari said the military’s response was “appropriate and in line with Israel’s terrorist operation,” and that Israel “will now think a million times [before striking again],” according to a translation cited in Ynet.

“Syria’s forceful response to the Israeli attacks changed the rules of the game,” he said.

His comments came hours after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems for targeting the Israeli aircraft during the bombing run Friday.

“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman said on Israel Radio.

Israeli officials have warned of the possibility Hezbollah and Iran could attempt to set up a base to attack Israel near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, where he asked the Kremlin to make sure Iran does not gain a foothold in the area.

Israel has also repeatedly vowed to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring any advanced weaponry and several strikes on such convoys over the years since the Syrian civil war began in 2011 have been attributed to Israel. Jerusalem has also claimed several of the raids, including Friday’s.

“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Liberman said Sunday.

“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hezbollah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do.”

Earlier Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli aircraft struck a truck driving near the town of Khan Arnabeh in the Quneitra province, on the road to Damascus.

The National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia set up in 2012, claimed the man killed was from among its ranks, naming him as Yasser Hussien Assayed.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

pro-regime media reporting Israeli drone targeted civilian car near Khan Arnebe in Qunitera and killed 1civilian “Yasser al-Sayed”

The group, reportedly set up with the help of Hezbollah, published four pictures on Facebook it said were from the scene of the alleged airstrike. The group said an Israeli drone carried out the strike.

The Lebanese news channel NBN reported that the man killed was a Syrian air defense commander. Other reports said Assayed was a civilian.

WHY DID THE IDF EMPLOY TOP-TIER ANTI-BALLISTIC TECH AGAINST SYRIA STRIKE?

 

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Why-did-the-IDF-employ-top-tier-anti-ballistic-tech-against-Syria-strike-484484

 

It was beyond a doubt the most serious incident between Israel and Syria since the outbreak of the latter’s disastrous civil war, which marked a bloody sixth anniversary last week.

Israeli jets, which had carried out air strikes against several targets in Syria, were targeted by anti-aircraft missiles, one of which was shot down by Israel’s advanced Arrow missile-defense system in its first use in a combat situation.

 

According to Arab media, the jets had targeted a convoy of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, and the Syrian Army claimed to have hit one jet and shot down another with their Soviet-era SA-5s, a claim denied by the Israel Air Force.

While there are few doubts about the IAF’s ability to prevail in such circumstances, it is curious as to why the decision was made to use the advanced Arrow interceptor.

The Arrow system has been in use by Israel since 2000, and in January the air force took delivery of the first Arrow-3 interceptor, the most advanced Arrow system.

It is a highly maneuverable system designed to provide ultimate air defense by intercepting ballistic missiles when they are still outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The Arrow-3 is considered one of the world’s best interceptors due to its breakthrough technology.

Produced by IAI, the Arrow- 3 forms the uppermost layer of Israel’s multi-layered defense system, along with the Arrow-2, David’s Sling and Iron Dome system.

Syria’s air defenses are largely Russian, with SA-2s, SA-5s, and SA-6s, as well as the more sophisticated tactical surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17s and SA-22 systems.

And while the majority of them have been neglected during the war, it is not the first time that they have been used against Israeli jets.

In September 2016, Israeli jets that had carried out retaliatory strikes in Syria were targeted with surfaceto- air missiles as they were on their way back to base. That time, too, no Israeli aircraft were endangered, despite Syria claiming to have shot down one of the jets. While this resembled Friday morning’s incident, Israel did not use any missile-defense countermeasures during that encounter.

For about a month after the incident, Israel enjoyed air superiority in the Middle East, despite the Russian intervention in Syria.

However, in October Russia deployed the mobile S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft batteries, which are capable of engaging multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 380 kilometers away – covering virtually all of Syria as well as significant parts of Israel and other neighboring countries, such as Turkey and Jordan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met several times since then, including just last week, and the two have implemented a system over Syria to coordinate their actions in order to avoid accidental clashes.

Netanyahu is said to have reiterated to Putin Israel’s “clear and understandable” redlines, which oblige Israel to act to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of Hezbollah, as well as Jerusalem’s resolute opposition to the consolidation of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

Israel is believed to have carried out numerous attacks targeting Hezbollah terrorists, weapons convoys and infrastructure in Syria since January 2013, preventing what Netanyahu says would be “game-changing weaponry” falling into the hands of the terrorist group.

Israel has also reportedly carried out air strikes inside Syria against senior Iranian and Hezbollah commanders, such as Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of the late Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh, near the city of Quneitra in January 2015, and prominent Hezbollah leader Samir Quntar in December 2015.

Following another reported Israeli air strike in January against a target at Damascus’s Mezze airbase, the Syrian Army command warned Israel against further strikes, stressing its “continued fight against [Israeli] terrorism and [aim to] amputate the arms of the perpetrators.”

While Syria usually refrains from commenting on alleged Israeli strikes and threatening against further strikes, the recent successes by the Syrian Army, backed by Russia and supporting militias, maybe have upped the confidence of the regime.

But despite the recent battlefield win and Russian air defenses, Israel chose to fire a costly ballistic missile to shoot down an antiquated surface-to-air missile. Perhaps Israel might be sending a warning to its northern neighbors: If Hezbollah continues to receive weapons supplies, Jerusalem is ready to use everything in its arsenal to protect its citizens.

Russia summons Israeli envoy, demands clarifications on Syria strike

Russia summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren to provide clarifications Friday, less than 24 hours after Israel struck targets in Syria, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement explaining the reasoning behind the operation.

Moscow is heavily involved in Syria and strongly supports the regime of President Bashar Assad. Assad’s forces fired missiles at the Israeli jets overnight after the latter struck what Jerusalem said was a weapons convoy destined for the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

Israel’s Channel 2 news reported Saturday night that Moscow was particularly concerned because the Israeli strike was close to areas where Russian troops are deployed.

Netanyahu said Israel would continue to target weapon convoys.

“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.”

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)

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

The Syrian Foreign Ministry earlier sent two letters to the UN secretary-general and to the director 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.

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.

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.

Syria Claims Israeli Jets Were ‘Aiding Islamic State’ Near Palmyra

Damascus  claims that it shot down an Israeli jet that “breached Syrian air space early in the morning and attacked a military target near Palmyra in what it described as an act of aggression that aided Islamic State”.

Israeli sources say that the Israeli Air Force was targeting Hezbollah in northern Syria.

It’s suspected that the Syrian Army fired S-200 missiles at Israeli jets that entered Syrian airspace early Friday morning.

This is certainly not the first time the Israelis have bombed Syria — or “aided” extremists fighting Assad.

As we reported last week, Assad considers Israel a close ally of the “moderate” rebels in Syria.

Speaking to European journalists about the recent bomb attacks in Damascus,  Assad dismissed criticisms of Iran, and instead blamed the west and Israel for “supporting directly the terrorists”:

If you want to talk about the European role [in Syria], or the western role, because it’s being led by the Americans, the only role is to support the terrorists. They didn’t support any political process. They only talk about political process.

The role of Iran is completely different. They support Syria fighting terrorists. They support Syria politically.

Israel from the other side [is] supporting directly the terrorists — whether logistically, or through direct raids on our army.

Israel also has a strange habit of flying over terrorist strongholds but choosing instead to drop its bombs on the Syrian army. As we reported (via Al Masdar News) in late February:

A Syrian Army source told Al-Masdar this morning that the Israeli warplane had crossed into Syria after flying over Lebanon’s ‘Arsal Barrens, where both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) are headquartered in the eastern Beqa’a Governorate. The Syrian Army source added that the specific location of the attack was in the Jard Nalhleh area of the Qalamoun Mountains.

It appears that this is becoming routine for the Israeli Air Force.

However, there is no independent verification that Israeli jets were damaged or destroyed during Friday’s airstrikes.

IDF says overnight sirens, explosions followed Israeli strikes in Syria

Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria, the IDF said early Friday, an attack that led to sirens and sounds of explosions in Israel in the middle of the night.

A little before 3 a.m. local time, warning sirens, which warn residents of Israeli towns of incoming rockets, sounded in the Jordan Valley. At least two distinct explosions were heard as far west and south as Jerusalem.

Initial reports said the sirens and explosions were believed to be from rocket launches in either the West Bank or Jordan.

But military officials said the sirens sounded when Israeli missile defense systems detected a missile launched at the Israeli Air Force planes during their strike against unnamed targets in Syria.

The explosions, the army said, were launches of Israeli air-defense missiles against an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile.

The IDF statement said neither civilians on the ground nor IAF pilots were in any danger at any point during the incident.

The sirens sounded at 2:43 a.m. near the Jordan Valley communities of Gitit, Mesoa, Yitav and Yafit in the Arvot Hayarden regional council, which straddles the Jordan River in the West Bank.

IDF ground forces in the area initially launched a search for fallen rockets in the mountainous terrain.

There was no word about the nature of the targets struck by Israel in Syria, but the IDF has regularly attacked weapons convoys in the war-wracked country in recent years that were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.