Is­rael ad­mits to at­tack­ing Ira­nian tar­gets in Syria

Ne­tanyahu con­firms hun­dreds of airstrikes on weapons ware­houses

Toronto Star - - WORLD - IS­ABEL KER­SH­NER

JERUSALEM— Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael ac­knowl­edged on Sun­day that Is­raeli forces had at­tacked Ira­nian weapons ware­houses in Syria, after years of am­bi­gu­ity over in­volve­ment in spe­cific at­tacks on the coun­try.

“We worked with im­pres­sive suc­cess to block Iran’s mil­i­tary en­trench­ment in Syria,” Ne­tanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cab­i­net meet­ing in Jerusalem, adding that the Is­raeli mil­i­tary had struck Ira­nian and Hezbol­lah tar­gets “hun­dreds of times.”

“Just in the last 36 hours, the air force at­tacked Ira­nian ware­houses with Ira­nian weapons at the in­ter­na­tional air­port in Da­m­as­cus,” Ne­tanyahu said.

“The ac­cu­mu­la­tion of re­cent at­tacks proves that we are de­ter­mined more than ever to take ac­tion against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.” The rare ad­mis­sion came hours after the Is­raeli mil­i­tary an­nounced that it had ex­posed the sixth and fi­nal tun­nel un­der its bor­der with Le­banon, which it says the Ira­nian-backed or­ga­ni­za­tion Hezbol­lah dug, wrap­ping up a six-week op­er­a­tion to seal the cross-bor­der tun­nels.

By lift­ing the veil on its cam­paign to curb Ira­nian in­flu­ence in the re­gion, as well as Tehran’s ef­forts to up­grade the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Hezbol­lah in Le­banon, the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment ap­peared to be try­ing to con­vey con­fi­dence that the threats from across its north­ern fron­tiers were un­der con­trol.

The pub­lic air­ing of se­cu­rity achieve­ments came as the de­part­ing mil­i­tary chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, is end­ing his 40-year army ca­reer and as Ne­tanyahu is cam­paign­ing for re-elec­tion un­der a cloud of cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Re­la­tions be­tween Is­rael and Rus­sia frayed after a Rus­sian mil­i­tary plane was shot down over Syria in Septem­ber, killing 15 Rus­sian ser­vice mem­bers.

The plane was ac­ci­den­tally shot down by Syria in re­sponse to an Is­raeli airstrike, and Rus­sian of­fi­cials blamed Is­rael.

Syr­ian state me­dia re­ported early Satur­day that Is­raeli war­planes had launched mis­siles to­ward the out­skirts of Da­m­as­cus shortly be­fore mid­night on Fri­day, caus­ing ma­te­rial dam­age to the am­mu­ni­tion ware­houses at Da­m­as­cus In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials have ac­knowl­edged strikes against weapons con­voys and Ira­nian tar­gets in Syria, but tra­di­tion­ally re­fused to con­firm or deny re­spon­si­bil­ity for spe­cific at­tacks im­me­di­ately after they take place.

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