Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli Defense Minister had some sharp words for the Syrian military of President Assad after Syrian artillery projectiles landed in Israeli territory for the fifth time in the last week.
Saying that the Israeli’s patience for Assad’s tactics was wearing thin, Liberman told the press in Tel Aviv that Israel was warning Syria to back off. “We have no intention of entering any conflict, but I advise our neighbors not to test us,” he said.
A number of projectiles have landed in Israeli territory due to intensified fighting on the Syrian side of Quneitra as Bashar Assad’s regime fights the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other rebels groups. The offensive was launched by rebels in a bid to take control of the city of al-Baath (new Quneitra), which is one of the few towns in the province that has remained under control of Syrian-government forces.
“We will not tolerate any spillover into our territory,” Liberman said, stressing that the message sent by the IDF in the retaliatory strikes as been “clearly understood” by those across the border.
On Friday, a senior IDF official stated that “the IDF is acting proportionally to prevent any deterioration” and has retaliated against Assad-regime positions after the projectiles struck the Ramat Hagolan area.
Liberman stressed that the rebels “are not our friends,” but said Israel is ready to accept any cease-fire in Syria that does not involve Iran, Hezbollah or Assad.
“We cannot allow a man like Assad, who kills his own citizens and who uses chemical weapons against them to remain in power,” he said. “Keeping Assad in power is not in our security interests. As long as he is in power, Iran and Hezbollah will be in Syria.”
When asked by The Jerusalem Post whether it would be better for Israel if Assad or Syrian rebels to control the border with Israel, he said neither was great option: “The rebels are not our friends, they are all versions of al-Qaida.”
According to Liberman, Israel is in contact with villagers along the Syrian border who understand that Israel, which provides them with medical and humanitarian care, is not their enemy.
“People there have nothing to eat. More than 3,000 Syrians have received medical treatment in Israel, and all of them are local villagers,” he said. “They understand that the best neighbor for them is Israel. I am not hiding it; we have helped in the past and are continuing to help.”
Israel has continuously spoken about how they would not tolerate an Iranian presence on their borders and that Tehran was setting up Hezbollah with factories producing anti-tank rockets, surface-to-air and surface-to-ground missiles with ranges of 500 kilometers, easily capable of hitting any targets in Israel
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Photo Courtesy IDF