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December 26, 2018 11:04 am

Russia Chides Israel for Syria Strikes, as Netanyahu Vows More Action Against Iran

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a graduation ceremony for new Israeli Air Force pilots, at Hatzerim Air Base near Beersheba, Dec. 26, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen / File.

Following reports of Israeli air strikes near Damascus the previous night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Wednesday that his country would not allow Iran to establish a foothold in Syria.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for new Israeli Air Force pilots, Netanyahu said, “We are not prepared to accept the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria which is directed against us. We will act against it vigorously and continuously, including during the current period.”

US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement last week of the withdrawal of American troops from Syria “will not change anything,” the Israeli leader emphasized.

“We’re standing steadfast on our red lines in Syria and everywhere else,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Russia has accused Israel of committing a “gross violation” of Syria’s sovereignty with Tuesday’s strikes.

The IAF dropped up to 16 GBU-39 precision-guided glide bombs during the operation, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Only two reached their target — a “logistics compound” close to Damascus, where three Syrian soldiers were wounded — while the rest were intercepted, the ministry said.

“Provocative acts by the Israeli Air Force endangered two passenger jets when six of their F-16s carried out air strikes on Syria from Lebanese airspace,” a Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson stated.

Newsweek — citing a unnamed US Defense Department official — reported that several Hezbollah leaders were hit in a strike carried out by Israel shortly after they boarded a plane set to depart the Syrian capital for Iran.

The American official also said a number of “Iranian ammunition supply points” in Syria were targeted by Israel on Tuesday.

In recent years, Israel has conducted numerous similar strikes to prevent the transfer of advanced Iranian weaponry to Hezbollah — the Lebanon-based Shi’a proxy of the Tehran regime that has sent fighters to Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad in the ongoing civil war there.

Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have been clouded in recent months by a mid-September incident in which a Russian military plane was accidentally downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile over the Mediterranean Sea, near Latakia. Russia charged that Israel had indirectly caused the mishap by not providing enough advance warning of an IAF operation that was taking place in the area at the time.

Israel and Russia have sought to avoid such occurrences since Moscow’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime began in 2015.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone about the situation in Syria.

Several days later, an IDF delegation visited Moscow for talks on the deconfliction system with the Russian military.

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