Israel is said to have struck Syria overnight Sunday-Monday, the second strike in 24 hours and third in three days as tensions escalated between the two countries over the weekend.
Syria media reported early Monday that Israeli jets took out a number of targets near the Lebanon-Syria border including a Hezbollah weapons convoy and Syrian military sites.
The reports have not been confirmed.
Earlier Sunday, an Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia, an attack that came two days after Israeli jets, in an early Friday morning operation, hit an arms transfer meant for Hezbollah near Palmyra, with Syrian air defenses firing missiles at the planes.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Middle Eastern leaders are looking for the Trump administration to re-engage with the region and take a tougher line against Iran, a top American Jewish official told The Algemeiner this week.
Malcolm Hoenlein — the executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — recently returned to the US from a trip that included stops in Israel, Egypt, Morocco and Cyprus. “What we heard in all the countries was a sense of relief over the change of administrations and anticipation about what the new administration will be, who will be in it, what they will do and how they will govern,” he said. “There is a feeling that America is back in the game. But there is also some anxiety and uncertainty.”
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has warned Syria that Israel will destroy its air defense system if Syria fires an anti-aircraft missile at Israeli aircraft again.
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 Thursday into Friday.
The Syrian military said the jets struck a military site near Palmyra, while Israel says they targeted a weapons shipment to Iran-backed Hezbollah. Syria claims their missiles downed one Israeli jet and hit another, which Israel rejected as “absolutely untrue.”
“Our central problem, and this above and beyond all of the other issues, is the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon,” Liberman said.
“Every time we identify a transfer like this, we will work to prevent the transfer of game-changing weapons. On this issue there will not be any compromise,” the outspoken Defense Minister added.
Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen speaks during the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 13, 2017
Israel aspires to become the world’s 15th largest economy by 2025, Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen said Sunday, arguing that Israel’s power depends on its economic growth.
“A country’s strength depends on the strength of its economy,” Cohen told reporters accompanying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his delegation to the Chinese capital for a three-day visit to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties and to boost bilateral trade.
“Why is the US the world’s biggest superpower? Because they have the largest economy. China is getting increasingly strong and is projected in nine or 10 years to become number one, also in terms of defense, and this is happening against the background of economic strength,” said the politician, a member of the center-right Kulanu party, which focuses on socioeconomic issues.
“The State of Israel, with only 8.5 million citizens, also stands in a very respectable place,” Cohen added, “especially when you take into account Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox (sectors that are relatively under-represented in the workforce). We want to include them even more into the workforce. Our goal is to become the 15th largest economy in the world in eight years. And therefore we focus on the economy. We understand that Israel’s strength is an economic strength.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrive in Beijing on Sunday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Beijing on Sunday, kicking off a five-day China visit meant to bolster economic ties with the Asian power.
“Warm welcome in China. A great honor for Israel!” he wrote on Facebook after landing in the Chinese capital.
Later, the prime minister added, “We have arrived for an official visit in China in order to mark 25 years of relations between Israel and China. We will strengthen the cooperation between our countries.”
The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement denounced the United Nations on Saturday as weak after the withdrawal of a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians.
A senior U.N. official resigned on Friday after the secretary-general asked her to remove the report, published by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), from the internet.
U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said she was leaving after “powerful member states” had pressured the world body and its chief with “vicious attacks and threats”.
Israeli soldiers at the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights, Nov. 27, 2016
Russia summoned its ambassador to Israel for clarifications following Israeli airstrikes in Syria.
Russia, which backs Syria’s embattled president, Bashar Assad, summoned its envoy, Gary Koren, on Friday less than 24 hours after the Israeli military action on Thursday night, according to The Times of Israel.
In a rare statement, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to having carried out aerial strikes in Syria and intercepted missiles launched at its aircraft from the ground.
No Israelis were hurt during the strikes Thursday night or from the anti-aircraft fire, according to a statement by the IDF spokesman.
Jordanian UN official Rima Khalaf who heads the Beirut-based U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
The head of a Lebanon-based United Nations agency that promotes development in Arab countries resigned Friday, after the body she led was ordered by the UN secretary-general to remove from its website a controversial report that charged Israel has established an “apartheid regime” guilty of “racial domination” over the Palestinians.
Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who served as executive secretary of the Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), announced her resignation at a hastily arranged press conference in the Lebanese capital.
She said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s insistence that the document be removed from the agency’s website led her to quit.
“The secretary general asked me yesterday morning to withdraw (the report). I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN,” Khalaf said.
Jason Greenblatt, the US administration’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations, with members of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land at a gathering at the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem, March 16, 2017
Jason Greenblatt, the US administration’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations, on Thursday met with senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem, reportedly calling the meeting “the most important” of his visit.
Greenblatt — a close confidant of US President Donald Trump — hosted the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land at the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem just before he met for a second time this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to one participant, Greenblatt said the 90-minute encounter, attended by both Israeli chief rabbis and the chief justice of the Palestinian Authority’s Sharia court, was the most important meeting of his weeklong tour through the region.
“The leaders agreed that the search for peace must be governed by respect for life and human dignity for all people; to work together for peace, reconciliation, and a just solution; and to reject all incitement to violence,” said a statement released by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
An F-15I fighter jet performs an acrobatic display
The Syrian army said it shot down an Israeli warplane and hit a second one as they were carrying out predawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra on Friday, a claim denied by the Israeli military.
“Our air defense engaged them and shot down one warplane over occupied territory, hit another one, and forced the rest to flee,” the Syrian army said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
The IDF denied the allegation.
“We repeat, at no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” an army spokesperson said in response to the claim, referring to a statement made earlier on Friday morning.