Israel threatens to ‘destroy’ Syrian air defense systems
JERUSALEMIsraeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on March 19 threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes.
“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Lieberman said on Israeli public radio.
Israeli warplanes hit several targets in Syria on March 17, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement.
Syria’s military said it had downed one of the Israeli planes and hit another as they were carrying out the pre-dawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.
The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar claims in the past.
An Israeli army statement said “several anti-aircraft missiles” were fired following the raid but that none hit their targets.
One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow air defense system, Israeli media reported.
It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.
In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.
“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Lieberman said March 19.
“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.”