Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat—Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to bomb Syria again if Israel comes under threat from its missiles, or if it sends arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Netanyahu was responding to a report yesterday in Britain’s Sunday Times about Syria directing its Tishreen long-range surface-to-surface missiles at Tel Aviv.
He said at the start of his government’s meeting that “Israel was following developments in Syria and was ready to deal with any scenario,” adding that “the Middle East is going through one the most sensitive phases for decades, the chief of which is the increasing unrest in Syria. We are following developments closely and making plans for dealing with any possible scenario.”
Netanyahu added: “The Israeli government is working responsibly, firmly and sensibly for Israel’s highest interest, which is the security of its citizens, according to our policies—one of which is stopping, as much as possible, the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah and terrorist organizations. We will work on ensuring the security of Israeli citizens in the coming stages, too, as we always have done.”
The Israeli military, political and media arenas highlighted the Sunday Times report, “Syria ready to unleash missiles on Israel,” in which it said Syria had raised the alert level of its most advanced missile system and directed it at Tel Aviv.
The Sunday Times said Syria would launch its missiles at Tel Aviv if Israel attacks Syria again. It stated that an Israeli information-gathering satellite system has been monitoring the Syrian Tishreen surface-to-surface missile system.
The deployment of these missiles, which are capable of carrying half a ton of explosives, represents an escalation in the region.
Israel was busy over the weekend, with an unnamed “senior security official” telling the Times on Friday that it is in Israel’s interest for the Assad regime to remain in power in Syria.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Netanyahu has denied that this is his government’s stance on the Syrian conflict.
Israeli army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai responded to the unnamed official’s statement by saying that he personally knows this “security official” well, and that he saw his statement as “one of those statements that the last two years taught me to differentiate from other serious statements, because this statement has come to serve a specific agenda,” denying that the intelligence and other security agencies shared that opinion.
He said: “I know the position of the security services, and I am telling you that this statement does not represent the position of these services.”
Mordechai added that “the Israeli army is following the situation in Syria and is preparing for dealing with any possible scenario on all fronts, and we do not have time to speculate about the future.”
Another Israeli official told the New York Times that Israel, which has bombed targets in Syria three times recently, is considering carrying out another bombing. The official sent a direct warning to the Syrian president not to respond to the next bombing, saying that Israel would paralyze his regime in response to any such strikes. He added that the deployment of Tishreen missiles against Israel is, in the eyes of Israel, a serious escalation in the region.
According to top Israeli missile expert Uzi Robyn, Syria has a large stockpile of the Tishreen missiles.