Avigdor Liberman on Syria: This is not the time to bark, but to bite – Arab-Israeli Conflict


Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits Kiryat Shmona, February 13th, 2018.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits Kiryat Shmona, February 13th, 2018..

Israel “acted with determination” during Saturday’s military engagement with Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday.

“There are no restrictions, we do not accept any restrictions. We acted with determination and responded to every provocation. We will continue to defend our vital security interests. To paraphrase the well-known proverb: ‘This is not the time to bark, but to bite.’ We are bitten hard, I hope we do not have to do it,” he said while on a visit to the northern city of Kiryat Shmona.

On Saturday, an Iranian drone took off from Syria’s T4 airbase in the northern Homs province and flew through Jordanian territory before infiltrating Israel. It flew for about a minute and a half in the northern Jordan Valley before it was shot down. In retaliation for the incursion, eight Israeli jets took off to strike the drone’s launch site. During the operation, around 20 Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired at Israeli jets, bringing one of them down.

The Syrian government said on Tuesday that Israel would face “more surprises” in future attacks on Syrian territory.

Damascus warns Israel of “more surprises” in Syria, February 13, 2018 (Reuters)

“[I] have full confidence the aggressor will be greatly surprised because it thought this war – this war of attrition Syria has been exposed to for years – had made it incapable of confronting attacks,” Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sussan said during a news conference in the capital of Damascus. “God willing they will see more surprises whenever they try to attack Syria.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned of the growing entrenchment of Iran in Syria. The IDF has accused Iran and the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards of operating at the T4 base for several months, backed by Syrian Army forces and with the approval of the Syrian regime.

In November, Liberman asked for an increase of NIS 4.8 billion to the IDF’s budget, citing “significant” security changes that have dramatically changed Israel’s security situation, including precision weapons in the hands of groups like Hezbollah as well as the dramatic acceleration of Iran’s military industry and the massive Russian presence in Syria.

Israel and Russia implemented a deconfliction mechanism system over Syria to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries and, according to Liberman, the deconfliction mechanism with Russia is “a connection that proves itself.”

“It is clear that each side has its own interests. Each side sees the picture differently. In the years of civil war in Syria, we were able to avoid direct friction, and that is an achievement in itself,” he said. “This is an effective relationship.”

The IDF believes that the next war on the northern border will not be contained to one front but along the entire northern border with both Lebanon and Syria. The military also expects that during the next war with Hezbollah, the terrorist group will try to bring the fight to the home front by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

Kiryat Shmona, where Liberman visited on Tuesday, is located about 5 km. south of the Lebanese border with Israel.

“I think we should note that after many years and after a considerable effort, I agreed with the finance minister to budget NIS 150 million, outside the total budget, on the issue of fortifying the home front here in the north, and this is certainly one of the issues that we are currently examining,” the defense minister said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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