Israel defence minister vows to strike any Iran 'military foothold' in Syria

AFP , Thursday 26 Apr 2018

Avigdor Lieberman
File Photo: Israel's new Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, reviews an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel May 31, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed in an interview Thursday to strike at any attempt by Iran to establish a "military foothold" in Syria, following an attack this month attributed to his country.

Speaking with a news website run by a Saudi businessman that regularly interviews Israeli officials, Lieberman also threatened firm retaliation if Israel was attacked by Iran.

"If they attack Tel Aviv, we'll strike Tehran," he told the Elaph website.

The comments came as Lieberman visited Washington to meet US National Security Adviser John Bolton and other officials to discuss what his office called Iran's "expansion" in the Middle East.

"We don't intervene in the war, don't fight there, but Iran is trying to establish bases there and attack us from there with advanced arms it brings to them," Lieberman said of neighbouring Syria.

"I can't stand by when I see Iran do that close to the Golan, and when it supports Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, and tries to establish a foothold in Syria in order to attack Israel."

He added that "any site in which we see an Iranian attempt to achieve a military foothold in Syria will be struck. We won't let that happen, regardless of the price."

On April 9, seven Iranian personnel were among 14 people killed in a strike on the T-4 airbase in Syria, with regime allies Iran and Russia blaming Israel for the attack.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility, but has repeatedly said it cannot accept Iran establishing itself militarily in Syria.

Lieberman's visit to Washington comes ahead of a May 12 deadline US President Donald Trump has set to decide on the fate of a nuclear deal with Iran.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly called for the deal to be scrapped or improved, though others say it is working as intended to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for the time being.

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