PM: Israel will stop arms transfers to Hezbollah

Netanyahu responds to report Syrian missiles aimed at Tel Aviv; promises to act in Israel's best interest.

May 19, 2013 12:30
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, May 19, 2013.

Netanyahu looking determined 370. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Haaretz/pool)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded at the opening of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting to reports in the British newspaper Sunday Times saying Syria has missiles aimed at Tel Aviv, assuring that "the Israeli government acts in a responsible, determined and measured manner to ensure the State of Israel's main interest, which is the security of its citizens."

According to the Sunday Times, reconnaissance satellites have revealed preparations made by the Syrian army to deploy surface-to-surface Tishreen missiles. Syrian President Bashar Assad, the report said, is ready to use these missiles should Israel decide to conduct a strike on Damascus.

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The paper quotes Israeli missile export Uzi Rubin as saying Syria has a lot of Tishreen missiles at its disposal, and that should they fire them at Israel, they could potentially paralyze all commercial flights coming in and out of the country.

"Our policy is to stop, as much as possible, any leaks of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. We will continue to act to ensure the security interests of the citizens of Israels," Netanyahu stressed.

The report comes amidst a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Middle East and Syria in particular after Israel allegedly carried out two airstrikes on several targets in Syria earlier this month.

Israel declined to confirm the strikes so as not to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad into serious retaliation, according to a confidant of Netanyahu.

This is not the first such recent report stating the Assad regime has missiles aimed at Israel. Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV quoted a Syrian official on May 5 as saying Damascus has aimed missile batteries at Israel, shortly after the two recent alleged strikes that reportedly targeted a weapons transfer meant for Hezbollah.

Until now, Syria has withheld  a military response, despite threats being made by various Syrian officials, including President Assad, who has threatened to retaliate immediately and without warning should Israel strike again.

Israel has been concerned with the possibility of unconventional weapons in Syria falling into the hands of terrorist organizations. The IAF has reportedly conducted three airstrikes this year on Syrian soil to prevent such a scenario from happening. Previous strikes on Syria allegedly carried out by Israel have not elicited a military response from Syria or its allies Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

In an interview with The Sunday Times in early March, after an alleged Israeli raid on a Syrian chemical weapons facility in February, Assad said that Syria had always retaliated to Israeli actions, “but we retaliated in our own way, and only the Israelis know what we mean. Retaliation does not mean missile for missile or bullet for bullet. Our own way does not have to be announced.”

Following the second alleged raid, Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted Assad as saying Syria is interested in a different kind of revenge on Israel. "We want strategic revenge, by opening the door of resistance and turning the entire Syria into a resistance nation," he said, expressing his wishes to emulate Hezbollah who turned Lebanon into a "resistance nation."

On Wednesday, the New York Times quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that “if Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”

He added that Israel “is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly quoted IDF spokesman as saying the report in the Sunday Times is not credible. Brig.-Gen. Mordachai was referring to a different report from Saturday's London Times.

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