The narrative provided to date by various Jordanian officials has also indicated the possibility of a spontaneous outbreak of tension between certain Jordanian and US military personnel over recent, heightened friction between the sides, with several Jordanians also hurt in the incident.
But assuming the incident was a terror attack, Carmon, who has also advised the Defense Ministry and participated in NATO workshops on terrorism, said the shooting still needed to be put into the greater picture of complex events impacting terror in Jordan, Israel and their neighbors.
He said that “US-Jordan cooperation is huge” and is a “key bridge to other states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel.”
Carmon explained that “the US has an interest in a stable regime, Jordan needs assistance, including military and economic and the backing of a superpower.”
For the US and Israel, Jordan is a firewall of stability against ISIS and other terror groups trying to spread their influence from Syria and Iraq.
He said ISIS, Hezbollah, Iran and other groups “are trying to get into Jordan and know it is important, but until now have had very limited success.”
There has been some ISIS success in infiltrating the Beduin community in Jordan, noted Carmon, but mostly Jordan has stopped them and has recently arrested some Hezbollah-Iran cells.
The big concerns are that the last year or two have caused internal divisions within Jordan where the Muslim Brotherhood and even the broader population is not ready to fight a war with ISIS.
These seeping divisions, along with the 1.5 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan with no horizon for an improved situation, is a combustible situation for ISIS and others to inspire “lone wolf” attackers, said Carmon.
He explained that the same threats that these terror groups pose to Jordan can also apply to Israel either by undermining Jordan as a bulwark of stability and a quiet border for Israel or by building more of a foundation for terrorists to sneak into Israel from Jordan.
However, the biggest threat that he said the attack highlighted is the escalating terror threat to Israel, Jordan and US advisers in the region after ISIS’s expected fall in Mosul and other locations.
While these expected victories go a long way toward reducing ISIS’s regional power, large numbers of ISIS’s foreign fighters are expected to retreat, survive and pose a lower-grade but potent terror danger in the area in other ways, he said.
Israel could find itself tracking an influx of terrorists in Turkey and Jordan, but also closer to home in the Sinai, where ISIS can try to recruit Israeli-Arabs or Beduins from close range.
One interesting phenomenon he pointed out which may help Jordan push back against infiltration and terror by ISIS is the government’s cooperation with other Jihadist groups, who it then co-opts to stand against ISIS.
Carmon gave Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a central Salafist figure in Jordan and a former mentor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Abu Qatada, who was involved with terror groups including in England until being extradited to Jordan.
Both Jihadist leaders received some favorable treatment from Jordanian law enforcement in return for making “strong statements against ISIS,” said Carmon. Their standing with the Jordanian government in turn can insulate it from criticism for fighting ISIS.
Overall, Carmon called the incident very embarrassing for Jordanian and US intelligence and counter-terror cooperation. He added that both sides hope the attack was carried out by a lone-wolf or the result of a misunderstanding, and want to resolve the matter quickly so as to stabilize cooperation.
In November 2015, a Jordanian army officer said to be inspired by ISIS killed two US private security contractors and a South African at a US-funded police training facility.
Many Jordanians oppose the government’s close counter-terrorism cooperation with the US and Israel, including working with the US on airstrikes against ISIS, while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in return.
Lebanon’s new, pro-Hezbollah president has vowed to ‘release what is left of our lands from Israeli occupation.’
One of the first congratulatory phone calls Aoun received after his election was from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who said that Aoun has been elected at “a time that the region faces the two threats of the growth of Takfiri [apostate] movements and terrorist groups as well as the indulgence of the Zionist regime of Israel,” adding that Iran is “confident” that “Lebanon’s resistance front will be strengthened.”
Aoun has not forgotten about his southerly neighbor, Israel, vowing to “release what is left of our lands from the Israeli occupation,” words directed towards the Shi’ite terror group with whom he entered into an alliance with in 2006 and has backed ever since.
But, according to Michael Horowitz, director of Intelligence at Prime Source, a Middle East based geopolitical consultancy, while Aoun’s win “is clearly in Hezbollah’s favor, Aoun is definitely not Nasrallah’s puppet” as he “is a relatively independent figure” whose base of support comes from Lebanese Christians.
And while Aoun had ties to senior members in Israel’s security community in the 1990s, current government officials have greeted Aoun’s win with caution. Israeli opposition leader and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that Israel “should worry when Lebanon elects a president backed by Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah is entangled in Syria, with thousands of their soldiers fighting and dying for the regime of Bashar Assad; some estimates put the number of dead at 1,500 with more than 5,000 others injured.
While the IDF thinks the group is unlikely to attack Israel in the near future, the border remains explosive due in large part to the ongoing military buildup by Hezbollah. According to a senior Israeli intelligence official, Hezbollah has over 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel, including Tel Aviv.
Those missiles, Horowitz told The Jerusalem Post, “could keep Israel under pressure and economic distress for months, while waging a defensive war in Lebanon that requires a lower number of fighters than the one [Hezbollah] is fighting in Syria.”
In addition to the massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters and has flouted its tunnel system, complete with ventilation, electricity, and rocket launchers. Some 200 villages in south Lebanon have also been turned in “military strongholds” where Hezbollah fighters are able to watch Israeli soldiers at any moment.
Another area where Hezbollah has a presence is the Israel- Syria border. And while they have not devoted as much to this border, Aymenn Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum and researcher at the IDC Herzliya, told the Post that if and when Hezbollah “secures the northern front in Syria, specifically around Aleppo, they could then focus more time and energy” to building up their forces in the Golan using “in particular native Syrian Shi’ite fighters who they have recruited.”
A statement echoed by Horowitz, who said that Hezbollah has “gained significant military experience in Syria and therefore Israel would be faced with a force that is capable of waging both guerrilla and asymmetric warfare, as well as more conventional offensives.”
Lebanon’s newly-elected president vowed to “liberate Lebanese territories occupied by Israel” in his first speech following his appointment.
Retired general Michel Aoun, 81, said no effort would be spared in Lebanon’s effort to “defend itself against an enemy who aspires to control our land, water and natural resources,” a reference to natural gas fields located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel.
Lebanon has claimed the gas fields extend into its water territory.
Aoun secured the presidency earlier Monday after winning the backing of 83 of Lebanon’s 128 Members of Parliament, including the crucial backing of Hezbollah and the Shiite bloc, ending a two-and-a-half-year deadlock, including 45 failed attempts to elect a new president.
“The selection of General Aoun as a President of the Lebanese Republic may seem to please the country on the surface after two years of constitutional void, but it places an ally to Hezbollah in the highest office of the land,” Tom Harb, Secretary General of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution told The Foreign Desk.
The World Council of the Cedars Revolution is a Washington-based NGO comprised of Lebanese nationals living outside the country and dedicated to freedom and democracy in Lebanon.
“Aoun will have to appoint Hezbollah and allies to the cabinet and to the command of the Lebanese army,” Harb said.
The deadlock was broken earlier this month when former Prime Minister and leader of the Lebanon’s Sunni bloc Saad Hariri who heads the “Future Movement” agreed to end the political stalemate and back Aoun for president.
Hariri, who will reportedly be appointed prime minister, was the first choice of Saudi Arabia.
Lebanon’s constitution mandates the appointment of a Sunni prime minister, a Shiite speaker of parliament, and a Christian (Maronite) president. Maronites represent the largest Christian denomination in Lebanon and approximately 22 percent of Lebanon’s population.
The president is involved in selecting the country’s cabinet and has a large say on foreign policy.
Aoun has received substantial support from Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Iran-backed Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah. Nasrallah formally backed Aoun for president for more than two years and the two have met regularly to discuss domestic issues as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“Aoun was appointed by Tehran not elected by the Lebanese people,” Joe Baini, president of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution said.
Baini points out the hypocrisy of many political factions who had previously marginalized Hezbollah and Aoun himself for his affiliations with the group and with Tehran and are now supporting his presidency.
“There will be a short period of stability before this system collapses again and badly,” Baini said.
A senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei welcomed Aoun’s victory as a “great triumph for the Islamic Resistance movement in Lebanon and for Iran’s allies and friends” according to Iranian State media.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also tweeted “Congratulations to all the Lebanese on election of President Aoun.
Aoun said he would pledge support for Syria’s President Bashar al Assad vis-à-vis Hezbollah who have maintained a substantial presence in Syria since 2012, dispatching many armed fighters from Lebanon.
State Department spokesman John Kirby called Aoun’s appointment “a moment of opportunity,” deflecting a question on Hezbollah’s backing of Aoun by saying “Let’s see what decisions he makes, what kind of leadership he exudes as president.”
Brig. Gen. (res.) Eli Ben-Meir, who retired from the IDF earlier this year after a three-decade army career that included stints as chief intelligence officer and head of the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Research and Analysis Division, said that the cyber attack that disrupted internet service on the US East Coast last week “was a reminder for those who needed one” about the dangers posed by hackers.
Ben-Meir, who currently works as a partner in a start-up company he co-founded that deals with cyber security at the state level, spoke by phone with The Algemeiner on Wednesday ahead of two US speaking tours he will be conducting in the coming months.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often says he wants Israel to become a global cyber power. In your view, has it reached that point yet?
“I don’t know if the word power is the best, but I think Israel is one of the leading countries in, first of all, understanding that this is an existing threat — it’s not something to worry about in the future, it’s already here. It’s a wave of warfare that we are now in the middle of. And Israel is in the top-tier of countries, in terms of — under the prime minister’s directive — establishing organizations, structures, procedures and processes to defend ourselves in this new era. Also, of course, there is a lot of technology that is coming from Israel — I think 20% of cyber technology in the world today is from Israel. The bottom line is a lot of people in Israel are getting up every morning and dealing only with cyber.”
How have new cyber capabilities affected the way the IDF operates?
“I won’t speak about specific capabilities, but the IDF is leading a lot of technology development efforts. Also, a lot of people who serve in the IDF leave it with much experience and knowledge of cutting-edge technology and go to private-sector companies where this knowledge is used to advance a lot of what’s going on. So this is an engine for the cyber industry in Israel.”
How do you foresee technology affecting the future of warfare? Do you think there will always be a need for soldiers on the ground?
“It’s a big debate. I don’t know if anybody knows. But I think it is interesting to look at the emergence of virtual cyber warfare. This is a relatively new phenomenon. The first known cyber attack carried out by a country was Russia against Georgia in 2008. We are now seeing countries more and more using cyber as a means of warfare. And even if a country is attacked by military means, the retaliation is sometimes a cyber one. When Turkey shot down a Russian Air Force plane last year, what did the Russians do? There were political sanctions and pressure, and also — almost immediately after the incident — the Russians hacked Turkish government sites.”
“I don’t think you can say that we don’t need armies anymore, because you need them to conquer territory, but for sure, warfare by cyber means can cause a lot of damage. Hackers can shut down facilities and national infrastructure. And countries are now losing between 0.5%-2% of their GDPs every year due to cyber attacks.”
How did technology change the way intelligence was gathered over the course of your military career?
“I think we can say the means of gathering intelligence have changed dramatically, not only in the IDF but also the world in general. Still, some of the good old ways — like HUMINT (human intelligence) — are still very relevant, but technology now enables you and provides advantages to the collection of information by other means, and cyber is one of the biggest ways to do so.”
What is the greatest strategic threat facing Israel right now?
“Today, I think one of the biggest problems facing, for sure Israel, but also many other countries, including the US, is not military-against-military battles, but rather small-scale clashes with terrorist groups. And the new phenomenon is terrorist groups that control territory — such as ISIS and Boko Haram, among others. Some already operate like countries — with ministers, offices and the like. But still the means they use are terror against civilians.”
“And this leads to something that is not as discussed as it should be, which is that boundaries don’t matter anymore. Borders between countries, certainly in the Middle East, don’t exist. Just look at Syria, Libya and Yemen. Old borders established a century or more ago — such as the ones set by the Sykes-Picot Agreement – are losing their importance.”
“In today’s virtual world with social media, ISIS can reach someone on Philadelphia. They don’t have to be there, they have a means of influencing them — the internet. And this means that a lot of what we used to do from an intelligence perspective, and also from an operational perspective, is not relevant anymore. There is a lot the Western world must do to deal with this new situation.”
Does ISIS pose a major threat to Israel?
“I don’t want to say it’s a major threat. A terrorist organization, however strong it is and ISIS has been suffering losses recently, cannot defeat Israel. Israel is a very strong nation with a powerful military force. But there are ISIS-affiliated groups on our borders in the southern part of the Golan Heights and in the Sinai Peninsula. So there is a threat these groups will conduct terrorist attacks and cause casualties among Israelis. And the other threat is posed by ISIS’ attempts to influence Muslims in Israel and get them to commit terrorist attacks. But this is not happening in big numbers. It is something that is dangerous and bothers us, but it is not a strategic threat to Israel.”
Does Israel face any existential threats at the moment?
“The Iranian nuclear threat is real, although I don’t want to go into whether the international agreement was good or bad. What is relevant now is Iran’s military buildup because of the money it has been getting. And Iran’s support of terrorism has only increased, it didn’t stop that. Also, Iran’s surface-to-surface missile capabilities have gotten stronger. Perhaps more importantly, Iran’s growing involvement in Syria and Lebanon is very problematic. Finally, while Iran may not be doing all it can now to achieve nuclear weapons capabilities, in ten years it will be allowed to. And this is something that Israel should already be concerned about now. We shouldn’t wait ten years.”
“Terrorism is another threat. While Hezbollah and Hamas — like ISIS — cannot beat Israel, they can cause a lot of casualties and economic damage.”
“Also, cyber warfare is a growing threat, although Israel is already doing a lot of things I would suggest other countries should also do. But we are particularly threatened because we are surrounded by different countries, entities and groups that have an interest in attacking us.”
How has the Syrian civil war impacted Israel’s security? And how do you see the situation in Syria playing out?
“An egg from which you make an omelet cannot be remade into an egg, it’s an omelet already. So I think Syria cannot re-become the Syria we knew five or six years ago, which had its problems but was a relatively stable state with a dominant leader and you knew what was going on. Even if Bashar Assad stays in power, it’s not going to be the same Syria it was, which will of course have implications. If ISIS or other terrorists ended up controlling all of Syria, this would be a big problem for Israel. But right now, it doesn’t look like things are going that way. With the involvement of Russia and Iran, it seems like we will continue seeing Syria broken down into cantons and small sectarian and tribal areas.”
“For Israel, the activities of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria are the most worrying thing. Iran is sending more and more personnel, fighting means and money. And Hezbollah is almost up to its head in Syria. And some Hezbollah members are on our border in the Golan Heights and that is a troubling threat to Israel that needs to be continuously monitored.”
“Also, the use of chemical warfare in Syria is becoming almost a day-to-day thing. And my personal fear is that the more chemical agents are used and the more nobody does anything about it, the more it’s going to become acceptable, which is very disturbing. Five years ago, nobody would have believed this could happen, but it’s happening.”
Do you think the time is ripe for Israel to bolster its relations with Sunni Arab states in the region?
“There are opportunities in the moderate Sunni world, because having common enemies makes us friends. So I think there is potential for cooperation. Also, although they can’t say it openly, everybody understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the biggest problem in the region. Maybe not everybody, because apparently UNESCO still thinks that, but everyone who understands something knows the truth. All moderate Arab leaders see that the biggest problems today are Salafi terrorism and Iranian influence.”
From a military standpoint, is the status quo in the West Bank sustainable?
“There is ongoing cooperation and a joint security interest with the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians don’t want terrorist attacks because of their potential impact and we, of course, don’t want attacks to occur. So the interest is still the same, but the most significant problem is that the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is not getting any younger, as all of us aren’t, and what will happen the day after he leaves the scene is a very, very big mystery. Will his successor be able to stabilize the area? Will he be able to deliver something? Will he carry on the joint security cooperation? These are big questions. And there are even scenarios in which Hamas could take over the West Bank.”
In Gaza, do you think the situation will ever change or is Israel fated to deal with Hamas for the foreseeable future with military flare-ups every few years?
“First of all, Hamas is continuing to build itself up militarily. So there is an intent on its part to develop its capabilities, because if not, it would put its money into something else. Hamas is continuing to try to procure arms, dig tunnels and manufacture rockets for offensive purposes. I do think Hamas is still deterred from the last operation two years ago [Israel’s Operation Protective Edge]. It’s a big stick above their head. So Hamas’ interest today is to not see another escalation in the near future. And the border with Egypt is also closed, which is hurting their force build-up effort. They are having a hard time smuggling in arms and people.”
“But I can’t say how long this Israeli deterrence will last. It has to do with a lot of factors, some related to Israel and Egypt and some not. When Hamas looks around, it sees that the Muslim Brotherhood has been put back in the box in the region in the last year and a half or so. So while a few years ago, Hamas may have seen a window of opportunity with the Muslim Brotherhood leading countries and growing stronger, today it understands this is no longer the case. So Hamas is not in the best position now.”
“While Hamas might not want a new war with Israel, the problem is when you play with matches, something can catch fire. And there are a lot of things happening on the Gaza border. Think of a scenario in which one of these small Salafi groups fires a rocket at Sderot and it doesn’t hit an open area, but instead causes casualties and we retaliate. The situation could escalate very fast, even if it is not in Hamas’ interest.”
Russian Forpost UAV asrd on Israel’s Searcher drone
President Vladimir Putin turns aside all Israel’s complaints about Russian arms supplies to Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, whenever he talks to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – roughly every week-to-ten days. The issue is also raised without results by Israeli officials on trips to Moscow, including the visit by Yossi Cohen, Director of the Mossad, to the Russian capital on July 1.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu persisted in complaining again about the Russian arms reaching the Lebanese terrorist group in his latest phone conversation with Putin on Saturday, July 23. He made the call, DEBKAfile military sources say, primarily to raise another topic at issue, the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) flights from Syria into Israeli airspace on July 17.
After their conversation, the Kremlin issued a bland statement saying that the two leaders discussed issues related to the war on terrorism, and that both agreed to continue the ties between the countries at “various levels.”
Our military sources report that the conviction gaining ground now among IDF intelligence (AMAN) and Air Force chiefs is that the drone was not Iranian or Hizballah’s but Russian. They take a grave view of the episode – especially when the unmanned aircraft, which hovered for some hours over the Golan and northern Israel, appears to have been a “Searcher,” the reconnaissance drone developed by Israel and manufactured by Russia as “Forpost” under Israeli license.
Moscow is making use of the sophisticated Forpost UAV for surveillance and intelligence-gathering in Syria, Ukraine and terrorist targets in the Caucasian mountains.
If IDF chiefs are correct, then a Russian drone developed by Israel was used by to spy on Israel after it was launched from an Iranian or Hizballah base in the Syrian Qalamun Mountains. This action crossed more than one Israeli red line.
Adding insult to injury, the drone’s electronic jamming devices were activated to disarm the missiles and aircraft Israel scrambled to intercept it.
This issue is a further irritant on top of the Russian arms supplies to Hizballah, which elude Israel’s efforts to interrupt them by two covert tactics:
1. Russian weapons consignments to the Syrian army are in excess of the recipient’s requirements; the surplus is secretly diverted to the Hizballah. Israeli air strikes only smash the Iranian and Syrian weapons convoys known to be heading out of Syria to Lebanon on the strength of data provided by Israeli military intelligence (Aman). But the traffic missed by Aman goes through to its destination.
By this tactic, our military sources report, Hizballah has succeeded in basing most of its fighting units, not only in Syria, but also in Lebanon, on Russian weaponry – last year, at a battalion level; by June 2016, including company level. Their hardware is not limited to personal side-arms from Russia, but also anti-aircraft and anti-tanks missiles.
Where do they come from?
2. The Russian military industry is the main supplier of raw materials for Syria’s arms manufacture, including missiles. Without this assistance, the Assad regime would not have been able to manufacture the Scud C mid-range ground-to-ground missiles or the Fateh-110 missiles.
Some of these made-in-Syria missiles are quietly consigned to the Hizballah.
Our sources have found that Putin habitually acts surprised and feigns ignorance whenever Netanyahu raises the issue of the Russian weapon supply to the Hizballah. He then promises to look into Israel’s complaint and get back to him with an answer. Weeks go by and the Russian president informs the prime minister that the thorough examination he ordered found no evidence of any Russian military or civilian body supplying Hizballah with weapons.
Netanyahu shows his disbelief and continues to raise the issue each time he speaks with Putin.Meanwhile, the Russian arms supply to Hizballah goes on with Israel constrained from interfering.
DEBKAfile: These occurrences demonstrate that the military and intelligence relations between Israel and Russia are in fact a far cry from the entente cordialepresumed in Israel and Western capitals. Indeed, working relations are handicapped by the effect of such incidents to erode even the limited understanding the two leaders reached to coordinate military intelligence and air force operations in the Syrian arena.
Israeli warplanes on Wednesday reportedly struck a building controlled by the Syrian government near the city of Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
According to Arabic media reports, the planes bombed a target in the city of Medinat al-Ba’ath, near the border of the demilitarized zone in Syria.
It wasn’t immediately clear what purpose the building served, or whether it was occupied at the time of the strike. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that the planes targeted Hezbollah operatives in the area.
The IDF Spokesman’s Unit said it didn’t comment on reports regarding Israeli strikes in Syria.
Israel has maintained an official policy of nonintervention in the Syrian civil war, which has wracked the country for over five years and left over 250,000 dead and millions displaced. Israeli officials have made clear that Israel would act to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining sophisticated weaponry from Syria or Iran.
The IDF has also retaliated when fighting by the various rebel groups and government forces struck Israel.
Times Of Israel
Armored bulldozers accompanied by Israeli army force entered the tank , on Tuesday 12.7, to the zone between Israeli and Syrian border, and began the construction of fortifications and anti-tank ditches, inside Syria.
This is the first time all six years of war in Syria, an IDF force ‘ ‘to openly cross the border and entered into Syrian territory. the IDF operates within 300 to 500 meters deep in the buffer zone.
force met no resistance.
even Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus was silent and did not published any information or protest against Israel’s military power operation. the only factor that joy against this Israeli action, is a small rebel group in southern Syria published a notice sent information about army movements inside the buffer zone.
military sources of DEBKAfile reported that the Israeli force continues its activities on Wednesday, 13.7, Ein Zivan in the front of the field in Israel and Contra Syrian territory.
buffer zone defined by the armistice agreements with Syria in 1974, a demilitarized zone under the control of UNDOF force’s military and civil administration UNDOF Syria. Both sides of the separation zone set two military forces dilution strips, each about ten miles wide. The first strip is allowed for each side to hold about 75 tanks, and -6000 soldiers. The second strip is allowed to hold 450 tanks. It was also determined not to hold anti-aircraft missiles within 25 kilometers of the separation lines.
The agreement stipulated that Syrian citizens who were forced to leave their homes in the buffer zone will be able to return to them. Syria pledged to resettle the Quneitra, and pledged not to allow terrorist activities or terrorist infiltrations in the area of the Golan Heights. These two undertakings were given orally as a liability to the Americans.
However, the civil war in Syria has brought many changes in the past two years in the buffer zone. Force UNDOF UNDOF was gone, leaving behind a vacuum that eventually filled by army soldiers or rebels Syrians. A large portion of the buffer zone remained empty after both Israel and Syria were trying to keep appearances, that the ceasefire and agreements signed before 42 still alive and well. It seems that the Syrian deafening silence on Israel’s military operation, also stems from the desire of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to try and coordinate response the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah against the Israeli army movements, and that Assad is waiting for a response from Tehran on the issue. military sources ofDEBKAfile reported that while the movement of ground forces Israelis within the buffer zone was felt on Tuesday air traffic Israeli unusual over Lebanon and Syria. Israel air Force planes have raised the alert level ahead of the 10th anniversary Lebanon War occurred in the week. the fact that Hezbollah is not only celebrated the event it is always called ‘a great victory’, but did not mention it in one word, raised the level of concern in the IDF from the unexpected action of Hezbollah.
A flurry of false Hizballah claims amid rising military tension this week was designed to cover up a direct Israeli hit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards HQ in South Syria, DEBKAfile military and intelligence sources disclose.
Whereas Hizballah reported on July 5 that Israeli helicopters had attacked Syrian army positions near the Golan town of Quneitra, in fact, one of the two Israeli “Tamuz” IDF rockets fired on July 4, in response to stray cross-border Syrian army mortar shells, struck the Syrian Ministry of Finance building near Quneitra, which housed Iranian Guards and Hizballah regional headquarters. An unknown number of Iranian officers were killed as a result.
On July 6, Hizballah sources reported a high level of tension at its east Lebanese outposts in Hasbaya, al-Qarqoub and Mount Hermon, indicating possible preparations to retaliate for the Iranian casualties.
The mortar shells that occasionally stray into Israel are aimed by the Syrian forces in Quneitra at Syrian rebel engineering units, which are digging an anti-tank trench on the town’s southern edge to prevent Syrian tanks from mounting an all-out assault against them (See attached map).
These skirmishes are put in the shade by the dangerous gains by Islamist terrorists in southern Syria.
Both ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front have overrun the entire Syrian strip bordering on Israel and Jordan – a distance of 106km from Daraa up to the Druze villages of Mount Hermon.
The Islamists have seized control of this strategic borderland by taking advantage of the fighting between Syrian army and Syrian rebel forces in southern Syria.
Israel and Jordan were also remiss. The IDF and the Jordanian Army were so busy trying to prevent the Syrian army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah from encroaching on their northern defense lines in northern Jordan and the Golan that they failed to notice the Islamic terrorists creeping up on their borders.
The terrorist presence which Israel finds most alarming is that of the “Khaled Bin Al-Walid Army” – a militia linked to both ISIS and al-Qaeda, which now controls a 36km band bordering on central and southern Golan from south Quneitra to the Jordan-Israel-Syria tri-border area – opposite Hamat Gader and Shaar HaGolan (See map).
The Khaled Bin Al-Walid Army was spawned by a union between the Islamist Liwa Shouada Yarmouk and Mouthana Islamic Movement militias. Its commander is Abu Abdullah al-Madani, a Palestinian from Damascus, who is one of al-Qaeda’s veteran fighters. Close to Osama Bin-Laden, he fought with hhimagainst the Americans when they invaded Afghanistan 15 years ago. Ten years ago, he moved to Iraq, still fighting Americans, now alongside the al-Qaeda commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
When al-Qaeda was defeated in Iraq, al-Madani moved to Syria.
DEBKAfile counter terror sources report that this veteran of Islamist terrorism, who is believed to be in touch wit Bin Laden’s successor Ayman al Zawahri, is active in three areas:
1. He is purchasing and stockpiling chemical weapons – a high priced commodity frequently traded among various Syrian rebel organizations.
2. Abu Abdullah al-Madani is recruiting from his militia suicide units for which he is personally training for operations inside Israel. DEBKAfile sources say that his plan is being taken very seriously by Israel security chiefs.
3. He is maintaining operational ties with Al Nusra commanders in the border region, possibly seeking access to the Israeli border through their turf for his chemical weapons and suicide units.
The next Israeli-Hezbollah conflict will be awful
Hezbollah has a nasty collection of more than 130,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars aimed at Israel. This is a bigger arsenal than all NATO countries (except the United States) combined. Why, a reasonable person might wonder, does Hezbollah need an offensive arsenal bigger than that of all Western Europe?
“You don’t collect 130,000 missiles if you don’t intend to use them,” says Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Hezbollah is a well-funded, violently anti-Israel terrorist organization based in Lebanon and a puppet of the Iranian regime.
In Hezbollah’s arsenal are about 700 long-range, high-payload rockets and missiles with names like Fateh-110 and Scud D. They are capable of taking down entire buildings in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, wreaking havoc at Israel’s major military bases, killing thousands of Israeli civilians, shutting down the nation’s airports and ports, and taking out the electric grid. And that’s just in the first week.
Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) major general Yaakov Amidror is talking about the M-600 missile. It’s a fairly accurate ballistic missile that weighs more than a Hummer H2 and carries a formidable warhead. The M-600 can also deliver chemical weapons. A single M-600 could wipe out a good chunk of Times Square and maim and kill people four football fields away from the point of impact. Hezbollah has a lot of M-600s.
Amidror, Israel’s former national security adviser, is asked what the next war between Israel and Hezbollah will look like. “We are not looking for war,” says Amidror. “But suppose Hezbollah launches an advanced missile like the M-600 at the Kirya, the IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv, or a large apartment complex in Jerusalem. Our defense technology quickly finds the launcher. It is right under a 22-story residential building in Beirut. We can now see in real time the launcher being moved back under the building to reload.”
“We have just minutes to act,” explains Amidror. “The IDF will have to take out the launcher because the next missile can cause enormous damage in Israel. But to take out the launcher means the 22-story building may fall. We would try to use precision-guided missiles to protect civilians but the target is hard to reach. We will try to warn the residents but the timing is tight. That building will almost certainly be hit. And the images in the international media will almost certainly be awful.” But, asks Amidror, today a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, “What alternative do we have?”
No good one, since the building in the scenario described would be a legitimate military target. So say a bevy of international military law experts, including Geoff Corn of the South Texas College of Law in Houston, who has studied IDF targeting policies: “After exhausting all feasible efforts to reduce civilian risk, IDF commanders must resolve the decisive question: Is the potential for civilian harm excessive in comparison to the advantages the attack would provide? When you talk of an M-600 in the hands of an enemy that targets vital military assets or the civilian population—even if that apartment building is full—launching the attack will be necessary to mitigate the threat.”
Professor Corn is well aware of what will happen next. “The international community will look at the images and will note that the immediate cause of destruction was Israeli munitions. But—and here is the kicker—both legally and morally, the cause of these tragic consequences will lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah cleverly places its arsenal where any Israeli military response—even legal, carefully planned, narrowly targeted, proportionate measures—will lead to huge civilian casualties among Lebanese. Why? Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s cunning leader, sees a win-win situation. He’d like nothing better than for the IDF to kill Lebanese civilians. When these awful images appear on CNN and the front pages of the New York Times, Nasrallah will paint the IDF as baby-killers and worse.
And if the IDF shies away from attacking legitimate military targets in civilian sectors, then Nasrallah achieves both military and strategic advantages, and his fighters can continue to rain deadly rockets down on Israel’s civilians, infrastructure, and military installations. Says one IDF officer, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting, monitoring, considering.” Keep in mind that Hezbollah has a long history of attacking Jewish, Israeli, and Western (including American) targets, both at home and overseas.
This writer spent two-plus weeks embedded with IDF units around the country, meeting with scores of soldiers, from sergeants to generals, from frontline commanders to nerdy intelligence analysts, from patrol boat captains to fighter pilots, from civil defense experts to high-tech air defense geeks. All these military tacticians and strategists were intently focused on preparing for the next war with Hezbollah.
Why did the IDF pull back the curtain and provide such access not only to its top brass but also to classified documents, war-gaming exercises, and strategic projections? Because Israel wants the world to know that (1) a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon will be, unavoidably, awful; and (2) the massive collateral damage won’t be -Israel’s fault. Even more than that, the IDF seems to be pleading to the international community: Do something. Stop Hezbollah. Before it is too late, and they drag the region into a bloody hellhole.
The bottom line: Hezbollah does nothing to mitigate civilian risk and everything to exacerbate that risk. The IDF does the opposite.
What will a future war look like? Some clues: -Hezb-ollah has amassed not just rockets and missiles. Iran has supplied its favorite terrorist organization with other top-of-the-line weaponry. For military aficionados, these would include the latest guided, tank-piercing Russian-made “Kornet” missiles, SA-17 and SA-22 air defense systems, and even the “Yakhont” class surface-to-ship cruise missiles. Making matters worse for IDF planners, Hezbollah boasts a standing army of more than 10,000 soldiers—a figure that could add two or three times that amount of reservists in the event of a war with Israel. In short, since its last major conflict with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah has dramatically increased its combat capabilities and armory. The terrorist organization has leapt from the jayvee team to the major leagues across every fighting platform.
True, Hezbollah is stretched these days from rotating its troops into Syria. But that also means that many Hezbollah soldiers will be battle-tested and tough; some 6,000 to 7,000 of them have been fighting alongside Syrian Army regulars in an effort to prop up Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s ruthless dictator and another Iranian favorite (Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah are all led by Shiite Muslims).
Make no mistake: Should hostilities break out, there will be a deadly ground war. Aerial operations simply aren’t enough to dismantle and root out Hezbollah’s maze of underground launchers, tunnels, and infrastructure that are aimed right over Israel’s border.
No matter how brave a face the IDF leadership tries to put on, in the next conflict with Hezbollah, IDF tanks will get blown to bits, aircraft will be shot from the sky, navy patrol boats will be sunk, and the multibillion-dollar Israeli offshore gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea could end up on the sea floor. Many young IDF soldiers will be coming home in body bags. Nothing would make Nasrallah happier. He is clear in public statements that he’d dearly like to murder every Jew in the world but especially those in Israel. In speeches, he describes Israel as a “cancerous entity” of “ultimate evil” and joyfully calls for its “annihilation.”
Deterrence is a big part of Israel’s defense strategy; acknowledging these scenarios doesn’t sit right with many in IDF’s military structure. They don’t want to frighten Israel’s civilian population. Nor do they want to embolden Israel’s enemies. But the IDF is trying really hard to give the world a wake-up call about what’s coming down the pike.
Even in a best-case scenario for preventing Israel’s civilian casualties—meaning a vast majority of Israelis would be able to get into hardened shelters before the first deadly salvo is launched from Lebanon—IDF planners quietly acknowledge that “as many as hundreds” of Israeli noncombatants might be killed per day in the first week or two of the conflict. If Hezbollah’s first missile salvos are launched without warning, the Israeli civilian death count could be 10 times higher. We’re talking grandparents and toddlers alike.
Israel’s top military brass acknowledges that its high-tech missile-defense system will be “lucky” to shoot down 90 percent of incoming rockets, missiles, and mortars. Hezbollah has the capacity to shoot 1,500 missiles per day. That means 150—likely more—deadly projectiles could get through in a day. Israel’s Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 3, and other state-of-the-art systems for shooting down incoming rockets and missiles are the best in the world but imperfect. “Even with Israel’s technological superiority, it would be a major blunder to underestimate Hezbollah’s ability to do serious damage,” cautions Amos Harel, the respected military/defense correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
One irony: It’s not only those in Tokyo and Chicago and Brussels who have little idea what such a conflict will look like. Many Israelis are fairly clueless (or are well practiced in the Israeli art of trying to live normal lives surrounded by lethal enemies). Residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem read about recent wars in newspapers every morning while sipping latte in their favorite café.
Not this time. They will be in bunkers. Possibly for a very long time. IDF major general (reserves) Gershon Hacohen explains, “ATMs won’t work. With the electric grid out, how will Israelis get to their 30th-floor apartments without elevators? How will they cook?”
Israel will almost certainly be forced to try to evacuate most citizens in the northern part of the country. Why? Because Hezbollah’s arsenal includes about 100,000 short-range rockets aimed at schools, hospitals, and homes. These rockets—including Falaks, Katyushas, Fajr-3s, and 122 Grads—may not be particularly accurate but they’re also not in air long enough for the IDF defensive weapons systems to shoot them down. They are lethal.
Imagine if New Jersey shot more than 1,000 deadly rockets over the Hudson River into Manhattan every day. No doubt, those on the Upper West Side would also be a bit peeved. “There is no country in the world—not Israel, not the U.S., not in Europe—who would not go to war to stop a rocket barrage of that nature,” explains Nadav Pollak, formerly in an IDF intelligence unit and today a counterterrorism fellow at the Washington Institute.
Small teams of elite Hezbollah commandos will almost certainly be able to slip into Israel and may wreak havoc among Israeli villages in the north. One scenario that has IDF strategists concerned: A Hezbollah team infiltrates into northern Israel via small boat at night, kills every man, woman, and child in a remote village, and then escapes into the darkness. The public relations value to Hezbollah would be enormous. “Anything that creates fear and terror among Israelis is a win for Hezbollah,” says an IDF Home Front Command senior official. Another big fear: the kidnapping of IDF soldiers, as has happened before. In fact, it was the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers on a routine patrol along the Lebanese border which triggered the 2006 conflict.
Thumbing its nose at legal and ethical norms for armed conflict, Hezbollah has strategically placed its launchers and other deadly weaponry in homes, schools, hospitals, and densely populated civilian centers throughout Lebanon. This arsenal is supposedly “hidden.” Still, the IDF knows where many of these weapons are stored and shared classified maps with me. These maps showed remarkably detailed information indicating that Hezbollah is storing its weaponry in dozens of southern Lebanese villages but also in Beirut proper, where the organization is headquartered in the densely populated suburb of Dahiya.
Amos Yadlin is the executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Speaking of the latest air-to-surface guided missiles, the retired IDF major general says matter-of-factly, “JDAMs dropped from F-16s can do a lot of damage.” Given Israel’s sophisticated, high-tech war-fighting machine, Yadlin says the IDF will have “clear superiority” in any conflict with Hezbollah. Deterrence matters. Yadlin and every IDF officer I spoke to made one point clear: A war with Hezbollah may be ugly, but Israel will win. Decisively.
Military law expert Corn is among those who believe Hezbollah should be called to answer for its unlawful tactics: “Hezbollah should be pressured starting today to avoid locating such vital military assets amongst civilians.” Corn fears that “the instinctual condemnation of Israel will only encourage continuation of these illicit tactics.”
Corn is correct. Two conclusions are inescapable and well voiced by a world-weary IDF officer: “The next war with Hezbollah is going to be an absolute shitstorm. And we’re going to be blamed.”
Civilian deaths in Lebanon will be a tragedy by any standard, but they will not be Israel’s fault. The primary duty of every nation is to protect its citizens. Israel will do what any country would do if deadly rockets rain down on its cities and military bases: It will respond.
In keeping with its history, the IDF is committed to responding judiciously and well within the accepted laws of armed conflict. But the outcomes will be very different from previous conflicts. Why? Because Hezbollah’s fighting force and arsenal are those of a nation-state, but its tactics are those of a terrorist organization. Tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians will almost certainly die. The international media—many either reflexively anti-Israel or simply naïve—will have a field day.
The IDF is smart to try to explain its side of the story in advance. At least so says retired U.S. Army major general Mike Jones, coauthor of a detailed report on the IDF’s conduct in its latest conflict with Hamas, the other terrorist organization on its border. “Despite what may have been reported on the 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza, we found that the IDF went to extreme lengths in Gaza to avoid civilian casualties,” says Jones.
Hezbollah and other radical Islamist groups are trying to delegitimize the laws of armed conflict; this ought to be of concern to all law-abiding nations and militaries. Jones believes that the IDF (and other Western nations) is “absolutely right” to try to get out in front on the strategic messaging issue.
Yes, strategic messaging. The IDF has long operated under the presumption that being in the right was enough to carry the day in the court of public opinion. No more. Anti-Israel propaganda is everywhere. Many politicians, journalists, academics, and policy wonks are eager to denounce Israel regardless of facts or logic.
One IDF officer pointed to another possibility, namely that many reporters and average Joes simply cannot fathom the reality of war: “When one sees civilians killed, it’s natural to blame the person who directly caused their death. But in war we need to look beyond. Civilians will die, but who is ultimately morally responsible? Is it the army that is forced to target military targets hidden among civilians—and uses precision weapons and warnings—or is it the group that deliberately puts their own civilians in the line of fire?”
The IDF is aware that future conflicts with Hezbollah will be fought on at least two battlegrounds. The first, obviously, will involve guns, tanks, and fighter jets. (Or, as one IDF officer put it, “The mutual exchange of high explosives will be the name of the game.”) The second front will encompass the court of public opinion. Israel is wisely opening up its second front early. When the next war occurs, the IDF will endeavor to have both law and morality on its side. Will anybody care?
“Imagine that you are sitting in Georgetown, overlooking the Potomac River, sipping a great beer, waiting for your shrimp order to arrive,” says Brigadier General Mickey Edelstein, commander of the IDF National Training Center for Ground Forces. “Then the alarm sounds, and you have maybe 10 to 20 seconds to get into a shelter. If you are slow, you will be killed. The same goes for your wife, your kids. That’s why we will take out Hezbollah’s legitimate military targets. Lebanese civilians will need to understand that when Hezbollah uses them as military shields, they are in grave danger.”
The IDF no longer distinguishes between the sovereign nation of Lebanon and Hezbollah. Here’s why: The terrorist group fully controls southern Lebanon, even to the point of limiting the movements of the Lebanese Army and also of the United Nations forces there. As well, Hezbollah holds significant positions in the Lebanese government and parliament. As such, Lebanon’s infrastructure will likely be targeted. The IDF may well go after Lebanese bridges, airports, highways, and the electric grid, and IDF officials want Hezbollah to know this. Again, deterrence.
Hezbollah is also preparing, and not just missiles. I spent a morning on patrol with a senior IDF commander on the Lebanese border. We were in easy range of Hezbollah snipers. The soldier was wisely decked out in full combat gear, including helmet, Kevlar vest, and assault rifle. It’s dead easy to peer across the border into the tiny Lebanese village of Ayta Ash Shab and see a Hezbollah operative, dressed like a tourist, using a telephoto lens to snap photos to monitor IDF border patrol activities. All was quiet.
One day, this border will not be so quiet. Firas Abi Ali, senior principal analyst on Lebanon for the London-based country risk consultancy IHS, rates likelihood of war between Israel and Hezbollah as “more than 50 percent” in 5 years and “more than 70 percent” within 10. A mitigating factor in the near term is the war in Syria, which keeps many of Hezbollah’s best fighters occupied. But IDF planners cannot afford to think in these subtleties. “There’s going to be a war with Hezbollah,” says Colonel Elan Dickstein, who runs the Northern Command Training Base. “The only question is when.”
One of those preparing is Colonel Tzvika Tzoron, commander of the Haifa district in the Home Front Command. He has been charged with the unenviable task of protecting Israeli citizens in the northern part of the country, including those living in villages right on the Lebanese border. “We hope to give them a few days’ notice,” says Tzoron. “But who knows what will happen?”
Who knows, indeed? “I go to sleep at night worried, and I wake up worried,” admits Lt. Col. Ronen Markham, who runs a battalion of navy patrol boats near the Lebanese border. “I worry about what I do know and worry about what I don’t. Most of the world doesn’t really understand that war is ugly. War is terrible. War is bloody. War brings casualties. Lots of people—soldiers and civilians—will die. There is no way around it.”
But Israel will try to find ways around it. If the IDF’s conduct of war against Hamas in Gaza is any indication, the IDF will go far beyond the requirements of the international laws of armed conflict to try to protect civilian life in Lebanon. They will put their own soldiers and their own civilians at risk, in order to minimize collateral damage to Lebanese citizens. Some of the steps the IDF may take to prevent civilian casualties in Lebanon include dropping leaflets warning of impending operations, using aerial assets to monitor civilian presence, and carefully choosing weaponry whenever feasible.
Several top-notch military attorneys from around the world criticized the IDF for its actions to protect civilians in the 2014 Gaza war. But the criticism is not what you might think: These attorneys believe Israel did too much to protect civilian lives.
“The IDF’s warnings certainly go beyond what the law requires, but they also sometimes go beyond what would be operational good sense elsewhere,” says Michael Schmitt, chairman of the Stockton Center for the Study for International Law at the U.S. Naval War College. “People are going to start thinking that the U.S. and other Western democracies should follow the same examples in different types of conflict. That’s a real risk.” Schmitt is the author of a recent comprehensive analysis of the IDF’s targeting practices.
But here’s the kicker: The IDF will apply the same legal standards in any war with Hezbollah, but with very different outcomes. Why? Because Hezbollah has far more dangerous missiles and operates out of high-rise buildings. Speaking bluntly, a senior IDF officer with an intellectual bent explains, “Bizarre though it may sound, it is lawful for more citizens to die. We will be applying the same legal tests in Lebanon but with far more tragic results.”
IDF Air Force lieutenant colonel Nisan Cohen winds back to the scenario of a 22-story building in Beirut with an M-600 launcher in its basement. “Even with our best precision-guided missiles and with our best efforts to avoid civilian casualties,” he says, “it’s very hard to just hit the basement. It’s even harder for us to explain afterwards why civilians were harmed.” Cohen knows that the IDF is at a competitive disadvantage in terms of telling its side of the story. Photos of destroyed buildings are dead easy to come by and tug at the emotions, while the IDF often must rely on classified information to explain a specific strike.
“We ask the world not to be fooled by propaganda and by images,” says a senior IDF official. “Check the facts. Any reasonable and moral human being will determine that the IDF did the right thing in our targeting decisions. There is just a fundamental disconnect between everyday life and war. If you see a picture of a dead baby, you know that it’s bad. You want to blame someone. It’s nearly impossible for people to flip that switch and try to understand the legal and factual context of war.”
Who gets suckered by the anti-Israel propaganda? Plenty of smart folks. Take, for example, a State Department spokesman who ought to have known better. Asked in July 2014 if the Obama administration believed Israel had done enough to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza, Jen Psaki said: ”We believe that certainly there’s more that can be done.” Really? What exactly? She is not alone. Listen to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who told the New York Daily News in April that it was his “recollection” that “over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza.” He later was forced to walk back this ridiculous statement.
Military minds, of course, know better. In November 2014, the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military—Martin Dempsey, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs—said that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to limit civilian casualties in its recent war in Gaza and that the Pentagon had sent a working team to Israel to glean what lessons could be learned from that IDF operation. Apparently, the State Department and Bernie Sanders didn’t get the memo.
Yaakov Amidror recalls an event from his stint as Israel’s national security adviser. In the late summer of 2013, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon paid a visit to Jerusalem. Just prior to a planned meeting with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Amidror got an hour alone with Ban and his aide-de-camp. Amidror pulled out his laptop and presented detailed evidence of Hezbollah’s deadly arsenal and the fact that it was strategically placed within densely populated civilian centers. “What do you want us to do?” asked Amidror. Ban offered no response and no suggestions. Instead, the U.N. chief continued 15 feet down the plush carpeted hallway from Amidror’s office to his meeting with Netanyahu.
Is it any wonder that Israel is frustrated? Nobody, it seems, in times of peace is willing to offer Israel a constructive suggestion on how to deal with an Iranian-funded terrorist organization in possession of a massive arsenal on its northern border. But these same organizations stand front and center to criticize Israel for acting legally and proportionately for protecting its own citizens in wartime.
Ahead of Putin meeting, Netanyahu says Tehran cannot be allowed to use Hezbollah as a proxy to attack Jewish state
Israel will not let Iran use the Hezbollah terror group to turn the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border into a new front, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian media outlets in comments published Tuesday.
Netanyahu, who is on a two-day visit to Moscow, told the state-run Interfax news service and TASS news agency ahead of the talks that he would do everything in his power to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria, and intended to ask Russia for help in curbing the threat from Hezbollah.
“We have a red line, a boundary that we will not allow to be broken. Iran will not be allowed, using Hezbollah, to use Syrian territory to attack us and open up another terrorist front against us in the Golan,” Netanyahu told TASS ahead of a meeting with Putin on Tuesday afternoon — their fourth round of talks in recent months.
The two leaders were expected to continue their ongoing discussion over security coordination between the Russian and the Israeli armies, especially their so-called deconflicting mechanism, installed to assure the Israel Defense Forces does not strike Russian jets operating in Syrian airspace.
“We have made a point of staying out of the Syrian conflict, with two exceptions: treating wounded Syrians on a humanitarian basis and preventing Iran from using Syria to attack Israel or to transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah,” Netanyhau noted. “We don‘t know what will come of Syria, but in any arrangement, it cannot be an Iranian base for terrorism and aggression,” he told Interfax.
“Israel will continue to share its concerns with the Russian government regarding Hezbollah. This terrorist group has called for the murder of every Jew and therefore must be prevented from acquiring advanced weaponry from anyone. Hezbollah launched thousands of missiles at our civilians and we will not allow them to amass even more sophisticated weaponry on our border.”
Netanyahu and Putin were also to mark 25 years of Israeli-Russian diplomatic relations, which were reestablished in January 1992, 25 years after the Soviet Union severed them in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War.
“Russia is an important global power and Israel is an important regional power. President Putin and I understand the value of the ties between our two countries, which have steadily improved over the last quarter of a century. Our relationship has enhanced Russia-Israel cooperation and I expect that this trip will only add to that,” Netanyahu told the Russian media.
“Our coordination mechanism has already proven itself. We would both benefit from strengthening it further.”
During Netanyahu’s visit, Jerusalem and Moscow were also to sign a bilateral pensions agreement, which seeks to “correct a historic injustice regarding emigres from the former USSR up to 1992 who lost their eligibility for a Russian pension,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Sunday.
The agreement, which will only take effect after Russian authorities ratify it, was to be signed by former immigration and absorption minister Ze’ev Elkin and Russian Labor and Social Protection Minister Maxim Topilin. Payments to Soviet-born Israelis are expected to commence next year.
Tuesday’s meeting in the Kremlin is the fourth contact between the two leaders in less than a year. Netanyahu visited the Russian capital in September 2015 and in April 2016. In addition, the two briefly got together last November on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference. In comparison, in the same time frame, Netanyahu has only met twice with US President Barack Obama.