Rare E.U. backing of Israeli strike against Iran in Syria

“Israel has the right to defend itself,” the EU said on Thursday night after Israel struck 50 Iranian targets in Syria early that morning, that killed three people.

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May 11, 2018 10:12
Rare E.U. backing of Israeli strike against Iran in Syria

EU flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.. (photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR)

In an unusual move the European Union stood against Iran and defended Israel’s right to launch self-defensive strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

“Israel has the right to defend itself,” the EU said on Thursday night after Israel struck 50 Iranian targets in Syria early that morning, that killed three people.

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Israel retaliated in response to an overnight strike, in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force fired 20 rockets towards the Golan Heights that did not enter Israeli territory.

The Syrian Army Command said Israel's attack killed three people and injured two others. A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes killed at least 23 military personnel, including Syrians and non-Syrians.

It was the largest exchange of fire between Israel and Iran since the start of the Syrian Civil war and the largest Israeli attack against military targets in Syria in decades. It stoked international fears of a war between Israel and Iran in Syria.

The EU spoke out hours after the United Kingdom, Germany and France issued similar statement. While the EU often talk globally about Israel’s right to defend itself, it is rare that they and the EU issue such wall-to-wall support for the Jewish state’s military actions in response to a specific incident such as this one.

The Syrian foreign ministry said the Israeli attack indicated "the start of a new phase of aggression" against Damascus.



The EU said the exchange of fire was “extremely worrying” and called “on all regional actors to show restraint and avoid any escalation, which could further undermine regional stability.”

The French Foreign Ministry said its country had an “unwavering commitment to Israel's security” and that it “condemns any attempt to undermine it.”

Similar to the EU it called on both Israel and Iran to exercise restrain. But at the same time the French Foreign Ministry also demanded that “Iran refrain from any military provocation” and “warned it against any temptation toward regional hegemony.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters in London, “We condemn Iran's attack on Israel. Israel has every right to defend itself.

"We call on Iran to refrain from any further attacks and for calm on all sides. We call on Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent further Iranian attacks,” May’s spokesman said.

Netanyahu spoke with May late Thursday night and thanked her for standing with Israel.

The German Foreign Ministry said: “We are deeply concerned by reports about last night’s Iranian rocket attacks on Israeli army outposts.

“These attacks are a severe provocation that we most strongly condemn. We have always emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself.

“At the same time, it is a key that the situation not escalate any further. This particularly means we must do everything we can to arrive at a sustainable solution to the conflict in Syria — it is needed to end the suffering of the Syrian population and to not further threaten stability in the region.”

The Trump Administration and its officials — which stands strong on Israel’s right to self-defense — issued multiple statements to this effect.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News that, “Israel absolutely has a sovereign right to defend itself.”

The White House followed with a more formal statement.

“The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East,” the White House said. 

“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bears full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions,” the White House said as it demanded that the IRGC and Hezbollah refrain from any further provocations.

The White House also called on “all nations” to “make clear” that Iran’s “actions pose a severe threat to international peace and stability.”

Israel called on the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Iranian attack, but the UNSC has so far taken no action on the matter.

The escalation in tensions comes as the US announced that it had left the 2015 agreement with Iran and the five other world powers that had been designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambition.

The US warned that the deal had instead funneled billions of dollars into Tehran to fuel its regional military ambitions including an increased military presence in Syria.

The other signatories to the deal — France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China still hope to salvage the deal.

In the backdrop of those efforts, the German, French and British statements in defense of Israel is particularly striking.

The Iranian-Israeli attacks also came after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu had visited Moscow and spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is also active in Syria and back Iran militarily.

Israel reportedly informed Russia of its intention to strike Iranian targets in Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told TASS on Thursday: "All of this is very alarming and raising concerns. It is necessary to deescalate tensions. We are verifying all the details now.”

Russia's defense ministry said Syria had shot down more than half of the missiles fired by Israel, RIA news agency reported.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in Herzliya on Thursday that the IDF had hit almost all of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria.

The Syrian Army Command said Israel's attack killed three people and injured two others. A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes killed at least 23 military personnel, including Syrians and non-Syrians.

The targets all belonged to IRGC’s Quds Force and included intelligence sites, logistics headquarters, a military compound and logistics complex in Kiswah near the Syrian capital of Damascus, weapons storage sites belonging at Damascus International Airport, intelligence systems and installations, as well as observation, military posts and military hardware in the buffer zone.

In addition, the Iranian launcher from which the Grad rockets and Fajr 5 missiles were fired at Israel was also destroyed overnight.

Anna Ahronheim and Reuters contributed to this report.


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