Ten killed in Israeli attack in Syria following rocket fire

A battery of Israel's Iron Dome defence system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, stands in Mount Hermon in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on January 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 02 June 2019
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Ten killed in Israeli attack in Syria following rocket fire

  • Two rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon late Saturday
  • The Israeli attack left three Syrian soldiers and seven foreign fighters dead

BEIRUT: Israel carried out air strikes in Syria on Sunday in response to rare rocket fire from the neighboring country, its military said, with a war monitor reporting 10 killed including Syrian soldiers and foreign fighters.
Israel’s army said two rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights late Saturday and one had been “located within Israeli territory.”
In response, the army attacked “two Syrian artillery batteries, a number of observation and intelligence posts on the Golan Heights, and an SA-2 aerial defense battery,” its statement said.
The Israeli attack left three Syrian soldiers and seven foreign fighters dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
According to the Britain-based war monitor, which did not specify the nationality of the foreign fighters, they died in missile strikes close the capital Damascus where Syrian troops, Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters are stationed.
Syrian anti-aircraft defenses fired against “enemy missiles” from Israel targeting positions in southwest Damascus, the official SANA news agency quoted a military source as saying.
The Israeli army said its own aerial defense systems were activated due to the Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but none of the Syrian fire hit Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the strike.
“We won’t tolerate fire at our territory and will respond forcefully to any aggression against us,” he said.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.
Israel says it is determined to prevent its arch foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran backs President Bashar Assad in the country’s eight-year war which has killed more than 370,000 people.
The Jewish state insists that it has the right to continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah out of self-defense.
On May 27 Syria said Israel carried out a missile attack in Quneitra, in what the Israeli army said was retaliation for anti-aircraft fire targeting one of its fighter jets.
Syrian air defense batteries also intercepted projectiles from Israel and downed a number of them on May 17, according to SANA.
The Syrian province of Quneitra includes the Golan Heights, most of which is occupied and annexed by Israel.
In January, Israel hit Iranian positions in Syria, saying it was in response to Iranian missile fire from the war-torn country. According to the Observatory, 21 people, mainly Iranians, were killed in those raids.
The latest reported strike comes amid soaring tensions between Iran and the United States.
The stand-off had been simmering since the United States last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear treaty which Iran reached with major world powers.
In recent weeks the United States has accused Iran of alleged threats and deployed an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf.


‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019
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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

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Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.


'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.