Israel threatens to destroy Syria’s air defence systems ‘without the slightest hesitation’

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Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. image courtesy : The Forward

Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defence systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes.

Speaking on Israel public radio Sunday morning, Liberman said, “The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our airplanes, we will destroy all of them without thinking twice.”

His threat comes after Syria fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli military jets overnight Friday.Air force officials said four Israeli jets on a mission to destroy a weapons convoy destined for the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah were attacked by three Syrian surface-to-air missiles, one of which was intercepted by the Israeli Aerial Defence System known as “Arrow.”

Damascus claimed one of the jets was shot down in Israeli-controlled territory and another was hit,a claim the Israeli military denied, saying none of the jets had been hit.

It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

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In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.

“Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise,” Lieberman said Sunday.

“The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hezbollah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do.”

Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering only sporadic incidents of spillover fire that it has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Assad’s forces.

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It has responded to the errant fire with limited reprisals on Syrian positions.

Israel and Syria are still technically at war, though the border had remained largely quiet for decades until 2011 when the Syrian conflict began.

Lieberman said he did not wish “to interfere in the Syrian civil war or provoke a confrontation with the Russians” but that Israel’s security would remain his top priority.