Israel's retaliatory strikes against Iranian targets in Syria serve as a warning for the regime of President Bashar Assad, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, making clear the IDF will act against Syrian forces if they assist Iran militarily against the Jewish state.
"Yesterday, I gave the Assad regime a clear message: our actions target Iranian forces in Syria," Netanyahu said ahead of a security cabinet meeting to discuss the rising tensions in the north. "But if the Syrian army acts against us, we will take action against it."
"The international community must prevent the entrenchment of the Al Quds Force in Syria," he continued. "We must come together to chop off its evil spreading tentacles in Syria, and everywhere else."
“Iran crossed a redline,” he said in a video statement posted just before the security cabinet met in Tel Aviv to discuss the situation. “We responded accordingly, and the IDF carried out a large-scale attack against Iranian targets in Syria.”
Netanyahu repeated what he said earlier in the week, that anyone who strikes Israel will be struck many times harder by Israel, and “anyone who prepares to attack us, will be attacked before they are able to do so. That is how we acted and how we will continue to act.”
With the Western powers largely supportive of Israel’s actions, and even Russia calling for a de-escalation of the crisis but not blaming Israel for the developments, Netanyahu called on the international community to prevent the entrenchment of Iran’s Quds force inside Syria.
“We have to unite to cut off the arms of this spreading evil there and everywhere else,” he said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is a member of the security cabinet, met with a group of foreign diplomats and said Israel expects their support against Iran’s nuclear and military ambitions. He said Israel had no intention of allowing Iran to build up militarily in Syria as Hezbollah did in Lebanon.
“We are ready for a low-level confrontation now to prevent a more significant threat in the future,” he said.
Washington gave Jerusalem its full support on Wednesday, with the White House issuing a statement condemning Iran’s “provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens,” saying it “strongly supports Israel’s right to act in self-defense.”
“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 statement read. “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bears full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions, and we call on the IRGC and its militant proxies, including Hezbollah, to take no further provocative steps.”
The statement also called on other countries to make clear to Iran that its actions “pose a severe threat to international peace and stability.”
Russia, fighting alongside Iran inside Syria to bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, issued relatively mild statements during the day, condemning neither Israel nor Iran and calling for dialogue. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was urging Iran and Israel to avoid acts that could lead to an escalation.
The country’s Mideast envoy, Mikhail Bogdanov, termed the developments “alarming” and said there was an urgent need to deescalate tensions. These developments were distracting from the fight inside Syria against Islamic State, he said.
One surprising reaction came from Bahrain, with that country’s foreign minister – in an apparently unprecedented move – backing Israel’s right to “defend itself.”
“As long as Iran has breached the status quo in the region and invaded countries with its forces and missiles, so any state in the region, including Israel, is entitled to defend itself by destroying sources of danger,” Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said on his official Twitter account.
In Europe, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters in London that “we condemn Iran’s attack on Israel.
Israel has every right to defend itself.” The spokesman also called on Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent further Iranian attacks.
Both France and Germany condemned what they both referred to as an Iranian “provocation,” while also saying it was important there be no further escalation.
Britain, France and Germany all came out against US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement and expressed their commitment to remain inside it.
The European Union also issued a statement in support of Israel’s “right to defend itself,” but at the same time called on “all regional actors to show restraint and avoid any escalation, which could further undermine regional stability.”
A UN spokesman said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was following the developments with “utmost concern” and urged “an immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region already embroiled in terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians.”Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.