Monday, June 26, 2017

Syrian Army Warns Israel, IDF Girds For Possible Hezbollah Clash, Trump Eager For Meeting With Putin

After IDF retaliates for spillover, Syrian army warns Israel

The Syrian army on Sunday issued a warning to Israel, following two IDF retaliatory strikes on its territory in as many days for spillover fire from the war-torn country.

The regime said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed by Israeli fire.

Around 10 mortar shells from Syria struck the Golan Heights on Saturday, prompting an Israeli response that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. On Sunday, several more projectiles hit Israel, in what the army said was spillover fire.

The IDF on Sunday again responded to the errant fire, confirming it targeted a Syrian military vehicle. Arab media reports said five people were injured in the Israeli raid.

“The general staff of the Syrian army warns of the dangers of these aggressive actions and holds the Israeli enemy responsible for the grave consequences of these repeated actions, despite any excuse there may be,” the Ynet news site quoted the Syrian military as saying.

The Syrian general staff also published photos of at least three men it said were Syrian soldiers killed in Israeli strikes. It did not provide a date or any other information on when they were killed.

Also on Sunday, Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij visited troops in southern Syria to mark the end of the Ramadan monthlong fast where he vowed the regime would continue fighting until it conquers “every morsel of the homeland.”

In Sunday’s strike, the IDF “targeted two artillery positions and an ammunitions truck belonging to the Syrian regime,” an Israeli military statement read, noting the army had also ordered Israelis to keep away from open areas along the border near Quneitra, where internal fighting was heavy.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Saturday night that the regime would continue to “suffer the consequences” of any attack on Israel emanating from its territory.

Israel, he said, had “no intention of accepting challenges to our sovereignty and threats to our security, even if they are caused by ‘spillover’” from Syrian infighting.

The IDF is reportedly preparing for the possibility that Hezbollah may seek to launch an attack against Israeli forces during the construction of a new border fence along the northern front, slated to begin next month.

According to Hebrew media reports Sunday, the army believes that the Lebanese terror group may seek to take advantage of the large concentration of Israeli soldiers along the border to launch an attack.

The IDF’s Northern Command believes that Hezbollah may claim Israel violated the 2000 United Nations approved border as a pretext to strike, the Haaretz daily reported.

The purpose of the fence, which will stretch from Metulla to Misgav Am in the east and Hanita to Rosh Hanikra in the west, is to prevent the infiltration of Hezbollah operatives seeking to carry out terror attacks into Israel.
In recent years, Israel has carried out a series of construction projects along the border — including fences and artificial cliffs — in order to boost its defenses against Hezbollah.

While scheduled for some time, the upcoming work along the border comes amid heightened tensions in Israel’s north.

Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against attacking Lebanon or Syria, saying “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters would be ready to strike back.
“The Israeli enemy should know that if it launches an attack on Syria or Lebanon, it’s unknown whether the fighting will stay just between Lebanon and Israel, or Syria and Israel,” Hassan Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah has significantly built up its weapons stockpile since the 2006 war and has upgraded its arsenal to about 150,000 missiles, Israeli officials say. Israel also fears that some advanced surface-to-sea and anti-aircraft weapons systems have reached Hezbollah from Iran.
Israel has reportedly sent messages to Iran via Europe warning it against continuing to expand Hezbollah’s war-fighting capabilities against Israel in southern Lebanon.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Saturday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad would continue to “suffer the consequences” of any attack on Israel emanating from its territory.
Liberman’s comments came after around 10 mortar shells hit the Israeli Golan Heights in the afternoon, leading to retaliatory Israeli air strikes. The army said the mortar shells appeared to be errant fire from Syrian factions fighting each other across the border.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor which has been reporting on Syria’s six-year-war, said two Syrian soldiers were killed in the Israeli strikes.

It also reported fierce fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels in Quneitra.

“As part of the Israeli enemy’s continuing support for terrorist organizations, Israeli warplanes attacked services facilities and residential buildings in the surroundings of al-Baath city in Quenitra province at the same time as Jabhat al-Nsura terrorists were attacking the area,” said a statement published by the Syrain government’s SANA news agency.

Liberman, meanwhile, stressed Israel had “no intention of accepting challenges to our sovereignty and threats to our security, even if they are caused by ‘spillover'” from Syrian infighting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too, said in a statement that Israel would not accept a “trickle” of projectile fire and would “respond with force to any firing into our territory.”

US President Donald Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin with full diplomatic bells and whistles when the two are in Germany for a multinational summit next month. But the idea is exposing deep divisions within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the US elections.

Many administration officials believe the US needs to maintain its distance from Russia at such a sensitive time — and interact only with great caution.

But Trump and some others within his administration have been pressing for a full bilateral meeting. He’s calling for media access and all the typical protocol associated with such sessions, even as officials within the State Department and National Security Council urge more restraint, according to a current and a former administration official.
Some advisers have recommended that the president instead do either a quick, informal “pull-aside” on the sidelines of the summit, or that the US and Russian delegations hold “strategic stability talks,” which typically don’t involve the presidents. The officials spoke anonymously to discuss private policy discussions.

The contrasting views underscore differing views within the administration on overall Russia policy, and Trump’s eagerness to develop a working relationship with Russia despite the ongoing investigations.

There are potential benefits to a meeting with Putin. A face-to-face meeting can humanize the two sides and often removes some of the intrigue involved in impersonal, telephone communication. Trump — the ultimate dealmaker — has repeatedly suggested that he can replace the Obama-era damage in the US-Russia relationship with a partnership, particularly on issues like the ongoing Syria conflict.

Nina Khrushcheva, a Russian affairs professor at the New School, said Trump is in an “impossible position.”
“He can’t be too nice to Putin because it’s going to be interpreted in a way that suggests he has a special relationship with Russia,” she said. “He can’t be too mean because Putin has long arms and KGB thinking. So Trump needs to have a good relationship with him but he also needs to fulfill his campaign promises of establishing better relations with Russia.”
The White House said no final decision has been made about whether a meeting will take place. It did not respond to questions about the opposing views within the administration.

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