Gantz: Iran Tried to Smuggle Explosives From Syria to West Bank With Drones

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Benny Gantz speaks at the Reichman University Tuesday.
Benny Gantz speaks at the Reichman University Tuesday.Credit: Hadas Parush

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that Iran had attempted to fly an explosive-laden drone from Syria to terror groups in the West Bank, but that Israel had intercepted the aircraft over Israeli territory.

Speaking at the Security and Policy Conference at the Reichman University in Herzliya, Gantz said that in February 2018, Iran launched a Shahed 141 drone from the T-4 Air base in Syria carrying TNT, bound for the West Bank. It was shot down by Beit She'an in northern Israel.

"Iran doesn't just use UAVs to attack, but also to transfer weaponry to its proxies," the defense minister said. He also revealed the locations of two bases in southern Iran – one in Chabahar and another on the island of Qeshm – used for drone attacks on maritime targets.

Israel shoots down Iranian drone infiltrating from Syria.

Iran, he said, does not just pose a threat to Israel, but is attempting to become a regional – and eventually global – hegemon that will impose its "extreme ideology, in which human rights are trampled, LGBT people are hanged, women are excluded and resources are allocated for the enrichment of the regime."

Iran's modus operandi for doing so, he said, is to take control over weak and unstable states like Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. "The method is clear: First we take Damascus, then we take Berlin," he said.

The Islamic Republic is also operating outside the region, he said, and "traffics oil and weapons to Venezuela, mobilizes the Quds Force in South America and tries to implant its influence into Afghanistan." One of its key tools, he added, is its unmanned aerial vehicles, "a highly accurate weapon that can reach strategic targets that are thousands of kilometers away."

These capabilities "endanger Sunni states and international forces in the Middle East, as well as European and African countries." The world must act against this threat, he said, and has many tools at its disposal for doing so, "and must enact plan B for its diplomatic option."

He said that Israel will continue to cooperate fully with the United States and other countries on the matter. "There is no doubt that a diplomatic solution is best, but at the same time, there has to be a show of force on the table as well, which means continuing diplomacy through other means," he said.

"Sometimes using and displaying force can prevent the need for using stronger force. I thank our American friends for the sanctions and actions they have taken recently on this matter, in order to achieve a mutual goal."  

Earlier Tuesday, at the same conference, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that Israel will maintain its freedom of action if a new nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers is reached.

"The mistake we made after the first [nuclear] agreement in 2015 will not be repeated," Bennett said. 

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