Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Monday that Israel would continue to employ a combination of military and diplomatic activities in order to drive the Iranian military out of Syria, while Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz threatened to assassinate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and topple the Alawite regime there if he does not re-assert Damascus’ sovereignty over the country by pushing Iranian forces back into their home country.
Speaking to Army Radio against the backdrop of reports Sunday by defense officials believe that Iran is preparing a barrage of missiles to launch against Israeli military positions from Syrian territory, Katz repeated Israel’s official policy of neither confirming or denying complicity in recent attacks on Syrian and Iranian forces in western Syria. But he said that Israel has been following Iranian movements and actions in Syria for a long time and added that the Security Cabinet is committed to preventing the Islamic Republic from becoming entrenched in the country.
“This is a serious threat,” Katz said. “We have decided to use a combination of military and diplomatic means to pressure Iran to get out of Syria, while also trying to avoid a clash with (Iranian ally) Russia. We also want to drive a wedge, as far as possible, between Iran and Lebanon.
“We are not looking for a conflict, but we are not afraid of one, either. If Iran (picks a fight) with us… they will get hurt, much more than we will,” he added.
Also Monday, Steinitz – also a member of the security cabinet – told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site that Israel would not hesitate to kill Syrian President Assad if the latter continued to let Iran operate from Syrian territory.
“Up to now Israel has not intervened in the civil war in Syria. But if Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a forward military base against Israel and to attack Israel from Syria, he should be aware that it will be the end.”
Following the interview, Steinitz said in a statement that his threat to assassinate Assad “reflects [his] personal position,” rather than official government policy.
Regarding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s planned meeting on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Steinitz said Netanyahu has developed a warm relationship with Putin that is unprecedented in the annals of Israel-Russia ties, and said the importance of that relationship cannot be overlooked.
“Russia is an important power, and we have many common interests with them, even if there are sometimes. Everyone must understand that Israel has red lines. Anyone who wants Assad to remain in power had better tell him (Assad) to prevent missile attacks and drone attacks on Israel ” Steinitz said in the interview.
According to yesterday’s reports, Iran’s alleged revenge operation would be guided by General Qasem Soleimani, an officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commander of its Quds Force, a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations.
The tensions between Israel and Iran have risen steadily since February when an Iranian drone armed with explosives was downed by the Israeli air force over Israeli airspace and last month’s attack on the T4 military base in Homs.
By: TPS Staff
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