Thursday, September 20, 2018

Updates From The Middle-East: Israel vs Russia, Hezbollah, Iran

In apparent about-turn, Russian embassy tears into Israel for downing of plane

Russia’s embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday excoriated Israel for the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike, pinning the blame squarely on the Israeli Air Force.
“Moscow views as irresponsible and unfriendly actions of Israeli Air Force, which exposed Russian Il-20 aircraft to danger and lead to death of 15 servicemen,” the mission wrote in a scathing statement on its Twitter account.
It added that “Russia would take all necessary measures to eliminate threat to life and security of our military fighting against terrorism.”

Though Russia’s military initially blamed Israel for Monday’s downing of the Russian plane, saying the IAF jets used it as cover, Russian President Vladimir Putin later said the downing of the plane on Monday was due to a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
The Israeli military said its fighter jets were targeting a Syrian military facility near Latakia involved in providing weapons for Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah and has insisted it warned Russia of the coming raid in accordance with deconfliction agreements.
Syria accidentally shot down the Russian plane when its air defenses swung into action against the Israeli strike. The plane was downed by Syria’s Russian-made S-200 air defense system and all 15 crew members were killed.
Despite not holding Israel responsible for the downing of the Russian jet, Putin warned that Russia will respond by “taking additional steps to protect our servicemen and assets in Syria,” and Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said that those will include deploying automated protection systems at Russia’s air and naval bases in Syria.

 The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Thursday that his group had obtained precision rockets despite Israeli strikes in recent years aimed at cutting the supply route through Syria.
"No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, addressing Israel in a broadcast speech.
"If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a fate and a reality it has never expected on any day," he added.
Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has played a critical role in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Syria's seven-year-long civil war.
Israel regards Hezbollah as the biggest threat on its borders and has said that it has carried out repeated strikes in Syria to prevent it getting arms deliveries from Iran.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards helped form Hezbollah in the early 1980s to resist Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000. Israel and Hezbollah fought a brief war on Lebanese soil in 2006.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday blamed “irresponsible and unprofessional” Syrian air defense operators for downing a Russian surveillance plane during an Israeli airstrike on Monday night.
Liberman maintained, during an interview on Army Radio, that despite Russia’s ire over the incident, Israel would continue to operate in Syria in order to fight Iran’s activities in the country.
“We will do everything, everything that is required, in order to defend the security of Israeli citizens. On this issue we have no other alternative,” Liberman said.

The defense minister denied that Israel was responsible for the downing of the plane, but said he understood Russia’s initial anger at the Jewish state over the affair.

“You don’t judge someone who’s in mourning, and we have expressed our condolences. I spoke with the Russian defense minister, naturally I can understand their mood at that time,” Liberman said.
“I accept the Russian president’s description that this was a tragic accident, but the person who is responsible for this tragic accident is [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad’s army,” the defense minister said.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed on Thursday that the balance of power between the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group and Israel has “changed,” and that the group has accurate missiles which would be used in the next conflict.

“All your attempts to prevent Hezbollah from possessing accurate missiles are foiled,” Nasrallah said during a speech via video to Beirut’s Dahiyeh suburb to mark the Muslim holiday Ashura. “We have accurate missiles that if used in any future war will change the entire equation.”

“No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities,” he said.

Israel has reiterated its view several times on any transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah as a “red line” and will work to prevent any such movement.

Israel is also concerned that Iran is not only trying to consolidate its grip in Syria where it could establish a forward base to attack Israel, but that it is trying to build an advanced weapons factories in Syria and Lebanon to manufacture GPS-guided missiles which could hit targets with greater accuracy. 

Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria, but has publicly admitted to having struck more than 200 targets in Syria over the past year and a half. According to the IDF, the strikes which mainly targeted advanced weapons systems and infrastructure belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, were aimed at preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Israel’s atomic energy chief on Tuesday told an international forum that the country has been reinforcing its nuclear facilities in light of threats made by Iran and Hezbollah.
The comments represented a highly irregular move for Israel, which generally prefers to remain mum on its nuclear activities.
The head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Ze’ev Snir, made the remarks at the International Atomic Energy Agency forum in Vienna on Tuesday.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran openly and explicitly calls for Israel’s destruction,” Snir said in his address.
“We cannot ignore the repeated and explicit threats made by Iran and its proxies to attack Israel’s nuclear sites,” he said.
“These outrageous threats require Israel to take action and continue to protect and defend its nuclear facilities. These facilities are constantly upgraded and reinforced, in line with IAEA safety guidelines, in order to withstand any attack,” Snir added.
The Israeli atomic energy chief appeared to be referring to comments made by Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group, who has often threatened to attack Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona.

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