Steinitz doesn't confirm or deny Syria strike, says election politics not consideration

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December 8, 2014 19:09

Steinitz reiterated that Israel has a policy of preventing “game-changing” and ultra-sophisticated weaponry from falling into the hands of terrorists.

3 minute read.



IAF F-16 fighter jet

IAF F-16 fighter jet. (photo credit:IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)

Israel continued to stay mum on Monday regarding aerial attacks in Syria the day before, even as Russia asked for explanations from Jerusalem, and Syria asked UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to clamp sanctions on the Jewish state.

While Jerusalem refused to confirm or deny responsibility for the air strikes, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz reiterated on Israel Radio that Israel has a policy of preventing “game-changing” and ultra-sophisticated weaponry from falling into the hands of terrorists.

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Steinitz was careful to stay clear of addressing Sunday’s attacks near Damascus, even as he dismissed as “absurd” claims from opposition parties that the attacks were approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for political purposes.

The government is “truly, truly protecting Israel” and is guided in its actions by what is necessary for national security, without making “political connections,” Steinitz said.

Claims to the contrary were an “insult to the intelligence,” he said.

Steinitz carefully stayed away from confirming that the prime minister gave a hint at Sunday’s cabinet meeting of what lay in store that day in Syria. At that meeting, Netanyahu said, “We are closely monitoring the Middle East and what is happening with open eyes and ears – and a lot is happening. We will stay informed and we will deal with these threats and challenges, which are not taking a timeout. We will deal with them with the same responsibility that we have up until now.”

The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Monday threatened to ask the UN Security Council to punish Israel.

“The Syrian government called for imposing deterring sanctions on Israel, which did not hide its policy in supporting terrorism, calling also on taking all procedures, in accordance with the UN Charter, to prevent Israel from repeating such attacks,” the ministry said in a letter sent to both the Security Council and the secretary-general as cited by the Syrian outlet SANA on Sunday.

Moscow – one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s primary backers – sent a letter to Ban decrying “Israeli aggression.”

“Moscow is gravely concerned about this dangerous turn of events, the circumstances of which require explanations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement. “In any case, there is no doubt that the use of force in international affairs is unacceptable and deserves to be condemned.”

The statement went on to say that it is “important not to allow further destabilization of the already tense situation in Syria and the Middle East region as a whole.”

Farhan Haq, associate spokesman for the UN secretary- general, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday afternoon there had not yet been a formal receipt of any letter from either Russia or Syria.

The president of the UN Security Council for December, Chad’s Ambassador Mahamt Zene Cherif, could not be reached for comment.

The alleged targets were in and around the Dimas Air Base and the Damascus International Airport.

Stepháne Dujarric, the spokesman for the secretary- general, told reporters on Monday that the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan had observed six aircraft flying at high altitude on the Alpha [western] side [of the buffer zone] at 4:27 p.m. on Sunday. Two aircraft broke off and flew northeast on the Bravo [eastern] side. Dujarric said that any crossing of the line of separation is a breach of the cease-fire agreement.

“We are obviously not in a position to determine who is responsible for what happened,” Dujarric said. “What I can tell you is our colleagues in UNDOF in the Golan did observe some activities.”

Dujarric also followed up on a recent report issued by UNDOF that IDF soldiers had been seen variously collaborating with people believed to be Syrian rebels.

“If you read the observations [in the report] you can see how he [Ban] underscores his grave concern, and calls on parties who have influence on the groups involved to bear that influence so they cease these activities,” Dujarric said. “The secretary-general also condemns violations of the cease-fire by all parties.”

The United States would neither confirm nor deny that Israel struck Syrian government facilities outside Damascus over the weekend.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she had seen the reports but declined to comment on the development.

Meanwhile, the Security Council is awaiting the delivery of a rumored draft resolution, to be presented by the Jordanian mission on behalf of the “Observer State of Palestine,” to demand a timeline for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Michael Wilner in Washington contributed to this report.

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