Syria is overseeing a large military buildup to modernize its ground forces and restore the army to its previous size, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday.
Speaking during a morning visit to an armored corps training exercise in the Golan Heights together with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Liberman said that Israel would continue to follow developments in the region closely.
“We see the Syrian army, which is not satisfied only with taking control of all the Syrian territory, but is clearly building a new, large-scale armored corps that will return to its previous dimensions and beyond,” Liberman said. “Therefore, we follow all developments and we are ready for any scenario.”
Asked about the restored sanctions on Iran Liberman praised President Trump saying he hopes that a second round of US sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector will snap back in November.
“The renewing of the sanctions against Iran is necessary to fight terrorism. The (JCPOA) brought billions of dollars to the Ayatollah’s regime, which were used not for the benefit of the people, but rather for terror and sabotage throughout the Middle East,” Liberman said. “It is important to understand the Iranian regime is extremist and ideological: Despite all their domestic problems they continue to spend over $2 billion a year (on foreign operations) and intend to spend even more. So when (European leaders) talk about aiding Iran’s economy, it isn’t aiding the economy, as European leaders say, but rather (aiding) the Iranian regime that is spreading terror on European soil, including recently,” Liberman concluded.
In a somewhat related development, IDF tanks responded to a cross-border shooting Tuesday by Palestinians in the northern section of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said. The IDF Spokesman’s Unit said that no Israelis were wounded in the exchange and added that the IDF would continue to respond to any attempts to harm Israeli forces.
Two Palestinians were killed.
The incident was the third shooting attack in less than a month: On July 20 Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by Palestinian snipers during a routine border patrol; the following day there was a second shooting incident at an IDF jeep.
In addition, kite- and balloon-based arson attempts have become a daily occurrence, as have IDF operations to prevent them: The army has targeted kite squads every day for the past week.
Wednesday’s shooting incident also took place under the shadow of ongoing talks with Hamas, for a ceasefire with Israel and a reconciliation agreement with Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.
Despite the talks, however, Israeli officials are pessimistic. Following a briefing by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and a five hour debate Sunday on the efforts to reach a long, the Security Cabinet could say only that “the IDF is ready for any eventuality,” but that no decision was reached and chances of an agreement are considered minimal. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was said to have expressed doubts that any long-term agreement could be reached with Hamas.
By: Mara Vigevani