Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ignoring Threats Iran Tightens Its Military Noose Around Israel, Israel Believes Rocket Fire From Syria May Have Been Deliberate

Ignoring empty threats, Iran tightens its military noose around Israel

 Iran pressed ahead with its plans this week, regardless of the loud scorn and threats poured on Tehran from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo and Washington.

On Friday, Oct. 20, less than two weeks after Saleh Arouri, Deputy Chief of the Hamas political bureau, approved an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement between his party and the rival Fatah, he was leading a large Hamas delegation to Tehran.

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Israel’s security cabinet laid down conditions for its recognition of the Palestinian unity deal, including Hamas’ recognition of Israel, disarmament and the severance of its ties with Iran.

On Thursday, US Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt issued a statement in support of Israel’s position.

But before taking off for Cairo, Arouri made a point of declaring that Hamas would never recognize Israel, give up “resistance” (terror), disband its armed wing or surrender its weapons.

His briefing to his masters in Tehran on the Palestinian unity talks in Cairo was an apt finish to a week of events which saw Iran, the universally denigrated rogue, going from strength to strength.

  1. The northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk was captured with hardly any resistance from Kurdistan by an Iraqi army, led by pro-Iranian Shiite militias and hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) thinly disguised in Iraqi military uniforms. Those oil fields were a primary source of Israel’s oil.
  2. The Kurds’ defeat was so devastating that their Peshmerga fighters also withdrew from parts of Ninewa, Salah al Din, Diyala, Mosul and Sinjar.
    The scale of this calamity has not been released to the public in the US or Israel, because what it amounts to is that the IRGC is now in control not just of the major Kirkuk oil center and its oil fields, but also of broad swatches of central, eastern and northern Iraq, as well as its northern border with Syria. Iran now has full, exclusive use of an open corridor across Iraq to Syria.
  3. Although the Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu was on an official two-day visit to Israel, the first since his appointment five years ago, an event that would normally rate top publicity, it passed without a joint communiqué, or any word on the topics they discussed, their areas of agreement or discord – or even a notice of his departure. Was such deep discord registered in the general’s talks with Israeli leaders, or was Moscow at pains to play the visit down?
  4. On Monday, Oct. 16, a Syrian SA-5 battery 50km east of Damascus fired a ground-to-air missile against Israeli reconnaissance planes over Lebanon. An Israeli air raid then destroyed the battery.
  5. Tuesday, the Iranian Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri made an unscheduled trip to Damascus. His three-day visit sent a signal that Tehran stood foursquare behind Damascus.
  6. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin announced that they discussed the war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program and the situation in Kurdistan. In the absence of any changes in Syria or Iraq in the wake of this conversation, it may be assumed that it ended as inconclusively as the Shogu visit.
  7. On Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman sat down in Washington with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser Gen. H. R McMaster. Before his departure, he announced that an additional four billion shekels ($1.1billion) should be added to the defense budget for the acquisition of “advanced technology” to meet the mounting Iranian threat. No one elaborated on the nature of this high-cost technology; nor was it mentioned again either in Washington or Jerusalem.
  8. Later Thursday, IDF tanks fired on a Syrian artillery battery near Quneitra after a Syrian shell spilling over from Syrian combat exploded in the northern Golan.

That incident revealed, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, that the shell came from the Beit Jinn pocket which lies opposite Israel outposts on Mount Hermon. In other words, the Syrian army and its constant ally, Hizballah, have edged into an additional military sector that brings them closer than ever before to the Syrian Israeli border and the northern Golan.

So while Israel’s leaders and military spokesmen declare over and over that the entrenchment of Iran or its proxies near its borders is “unacceptable,” what else are they doing to curb their steady advance? And what use are the defense cabinet’s stipulations for Hamas, when Arouri sits down in Tehran with Iranian officials to plot a third front against Israel from the Gaza Strip?

Israel believes five rockets fired across the border from Syria early Saturday morning may have been deliberately launched at Israel, rather than constituting errant spillover from clashes in Syria, military sources said late Saturday.
Israel fired back into Syria, hitting three rocket launchers, in response to the rocket fire, and warned that further fire would prompt a more intensive response.
Syria, in turn, claimed that Israel had “coordinated” with terror groups, inviting them to fire into Israel as a pretext for the IDF response, and it sent letters of complaint to the United Nations.
The Israeli army said five projectiles were fired at around 5 am, and that four of them fell relatively deep inside Israeli territory. The rockets set off alarms in several locations. They landed in open ground, and caused no injury or damage. One of them landed close to an Israeli residential area
Channel 2 news reported that although the IDF officially referred to “spillover” fire in its statements Saturday, there was “a growing sense” in the army that the Syrian fire was deliberate.
There was no fighting going on in Syria at the time of the fire, the TV report said. It added that the area from which the rockets were fired is under the control of the Syrian army. And it noted that the projectiles fell deep inside Israeli territory on the Golan Heights, one after the other, rather than close to the border.
Tensions have been particularly high on the Israeli-Syrian front of late.
Concluding a visit to Syria on Saturday, the commander of Iran’s armed forces signed a memorandum of understanding with Syrian officials in which the two allies announced plans for tighter military cooperation and coordination — notably against Israel. The sides agreed to expand cooperation on intelligence, training, technology and against what they called “Zionist-American schemes,” the Ynet news website reported.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, Iran’s chief of staff, has spent several days in Syria, touring war zones and meeting with high-level officials, including President Bashar Assad.
In what was seen as part of a determined effort to put an end to Israel’s hitherto unimpeded air superiority over Syria and Lebanon, Bagheri on Wednesday said Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies. “We cannot accept a situation where the Zionist entity attacks Syria from the ground and the air,” he said.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman this week hosted his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and told him that Israel will take action against Iran and its proxies if they continue to entrench themselves along the Syrian border.
Liberman, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, are in the US this coming week for talks with US officials, with Syria and Iran high on the agenda.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a rare instance of open disagreement with the Trump administration, has warned that the unfolding situation in southern Syria does not sufficiently address Iranian military ambitions in the area.
“The recent Israeli attack on the outskirts of Quneitra is a new chapter in the conspiracy between the Israeli occupation and armed terror groups, and another attempt to support these organizations,” Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in messages sent to the UN secretary general and the UN Security Council.
Damascus warned of the “dire consequences of these repeated aggressive actions, which cannot be seen as anything but support for terrorism and the criminal terror groups.”
It further expressed “utter astonishment at the Security Council’s inability to stop these Israeli attacks and condemn them.”
The IDF vowed to intensify its responses to future fire. “Even if this is just spillover, this is an exceptional incident and the continuance of such events will be met with a more fierce Israeli response,” a statement by the IDF said.
“The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its residents, and considers the Syrian regime responsible for what is happening in its territory,” the statement concluded.

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