A military confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria is becoming increasing likely, US Defense Secretary James Mattis warned on Thursday as his Israeli counterpart was visiting Washington to discuss the threat.
Secretary Mattis delivered his warning of yet another military conflict in the Middle East at a hearing in Congress. Asked if Israel and Iran were edging toward military confrontation, he said: “I can see how it might start, but I am not sure when or where.”
"I think that it's very likely in Syria because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah.”
He accused Iran of not only expanding and strengthening its presence in Syria but also “bringing advanced weapons for Hezbollah through Syria”.
Israel, he said “will not wait to see those missiles in the air and we hope Iran would pull back”.
The Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who met US national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary Mattis on Thursday, also warned of a confrontation with Iran.
"Any site in which we see an Iranian attempt to achieve a military foothold in Syria will be struck. We won't let that happen, regardless of the price," he told the Arabic news website Elaph.
Israel said it carried out air strikes against Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria in February after one its F16 fighter jets was downed near the Syrian border.
The satellite image showed what appeared to be a military installation in the mountains northwest of Syria’s capital.
The base serves as “Iran’s central induction and recruitment center in Syria,” Danon said. The ambassador did not provide evidence to support the claim.
In his speech to the Security Council, Danon also discussed the May 12 deadline by which US President Donald Trump must decide if the United States will remain part of the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Trump has demanded that significant changes be made to the agreement if the US is to continue to abide by it. Iran has opposed all changes, and indicated it will not be bound by the accord if the US is not.
“President Trump is focused on these important changes because he knows it will make the world safer. All the signatories of this agreement must now make a choice: Do you support these necessary changes? Or, will you choose to enable the Iranian regime that supports terror and is attempting to take over the Middle East?” Danon said.
Under this policy, Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.
Danon also commented on the recent protests and clashes along the Gaza border, in which 40 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry.
In recent months, Israeli officials have identified a number of air bases throughout Syria that they said are being used by Iranian forces. This appears to be a coordinated effort to deter Iran from carrying out a retaliatory strike against Israel, after an alleged Iranian drone facility in central Syria was bombed earlier this month, reportedly by Israel.
Last week, for instance, Israeli media outlets were provided by the IDF with a map showing five Iranian-controlled bases in Syria, which would apparently constitute potential targets for an Israeli response should Iran carry out any kind of attack.