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Qassem Soleimani uses a walkie-talkie on the frontline during offensive operations against Islamic State militants in the town of Tal Ksaiba, in Salahuddin province, in 2015.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Senior Iranian general's visit to Syria prompted Israeli strikes - report
By YASSER OKBI/MAARIV
01/23/2019
Russia notified Iran of the impending Israeli airstrikes, the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida reported.
Iran threatened to escalate the situation in the Middle East if Israel continues to attack in Syria, according to a report by Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida.

"Quds Force commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani visited southern Syria, and that was the trigger for the current round of Israeli-Iranian conflict," the report said. "Soleimani's visit to a location less than 40 km. from the ceasefire line in the Golan Heights violated a previous American-Russian-Israeli agreement" regarding the Iranian presence in the country.

Soleimani's secret visit, which lasted two hours and was monitored by intelligence officials, according to the report, occurred two days before Iranian forces fired a missile from an area near Damascus into the Israeli Golan Heights on Sunday, in response to Israeli attacks in Syria.

Syria warned in advance

The Iranian Supreme National Security Council convened on Monday night and listened to Soleimani's report on his visit to Syria and the Israeli attacks, a senior Iranian official told the paper.

The source also conveyed that the Russians notified the Iranians 30 minutes in advance which targets Israel would attack. The Iranians managed to evacuate the areas and minimize the damage.

Soleimani said that the only way to stop the Israeli attacks is to respond with three missiles for every one Israel fires, and to attempt to intercept any Israeli fighter jets, even those flying over Lebanon. He stressed the need to pressure the Syrian government to respond to the Israeli attacks, especially after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted Israel was responsible for them.

According to international law, Netanyahu's declaration makes Syrian retaliation legitimate, according to the source.

Soleimani also related to the upcoming Israeli elections and said that an Iranian attack in Israel would destroy Netanyahu's chances, and that otherwise Netanyahu will continue the Israeli aggression against Iran until he wins the elections.

According to the source, the Iranian Supreme National Security Council decided to continue pressure on the Syrian government to respond to future Israeli attacks, and to send a message to Russia that Iran will retaliate as it sees fit if any Iranian force is targeted.

"The UN [Security Council]’s failure to act against Israel and the support it receives from permanent members of the UNSC has encouraged the Israeli aggression," the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari said Tuesday night. "There were no calls to halt such acts by this UNSC, in light of the position of the US, Britain and France, who are partners and supporters of Israel...[but] Syria intends to exercise its right to self-defense and to work to take back the Golan Heights."

Ja'afari also said Syria threatened to attack Ben-Gurion Airport in response to Israel's aerial strike against a weapons storage site at Damascus International Airport earlier this week.
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