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Liberman: Russia can't hinder Israel's operational freedom in Syria

Defense Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017.
Abir Sultan, Pool via AP
Russia had outed Israel as the source of an air strike on an Iranian base in Syria

Israel’s defense minister declared on Monday that he would not allow Russia to restrict Israel’s operational freedom, following withering criticism from Moscow over a reported Israeli strike on an Iranian air base in Syria.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in an interview with the Walla news website that Israel “will not accept any restrictions when it comes to the Israeli security interest.”

“We have successfully prevented direct friction with the Russians, and we are talking to them all the time,” he said, according to excerpts of the interview filmed for Israel’s upcoming Independence Day.

"We do not interfere in Syria's internal affairs and we are not coming to fix the world. We are dealing only with Israel's security, and the Russians understand that well."

After explosions tore through the T4 airbase -- partly used by Iran -- in Syria on April 9, the Russian defense ministry was quick to out Israel as the source of the strike.

It was a rare moment of public hostility between the two countries, who had come to an accommodation allowing Israel to bomb targets belonging to the Syrian regime and Iran -- both Russian allies.

Jack Guez (AFP)

The interview also took place after an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official was anonymously quoted by the New York Times as admitting responsibility for for the T4 attack, noting that it was “the first time we attacked live Iranian targets.”

Liberman, sticking to Israeli policy, refused to confirm that the country was responsible for attacking the base, but added that "we have to do what we are forced to do. We will not allow Iranian consolidation in Syria.”

"We will not tolerate a significant Iranian military force in Syria in the form of military ports and airports or the deployment of sophisticated weaponry," Liberman said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said they will not allow Iran to establish a military infrastructure in Syria, where Tehran has long been allied to the ruling Assad family.

Israeli war planes have reportedly struck targets in Syria dozens of times, usually weapons stockpiles it feared would be transferred to Hezbollah.

The unnamed IDF official told the NYT the attack on the air base came after Israel shot down an Iranian explosives-laden drone breaching its air space on February 10 this year.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has warned that the “crime” committed “will not remain without response.”

Comments

(1)

Good luck Israel. keep Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria. Israel little Country but big power. send Iran and Hezbollah to ALLAH where they belong soon or later, sooner is better.

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