Israel's Defense Chief Blamed Hezbollah for Syria Rockets but Didn't Have the Intel to Back It Up

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Defense Minister speaking to Knesset members from his Yisrael Beiteinu party, July 2017.
Defense Minister speaking to Knesset members from his Yisrael Beiteinu party, July 2017.Credit: Emil Salman

Defense sources could not confirm Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s assertion that the rocket fire from Syria into the Israeli side of the Golan Heights Saturday was “deliberate and carried out by Hezbollah, which is trying to drag Israel into battle.”

Lieberman was speaking to Knesset members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party. He called the cross-border fire a “personal and direct order from Nasrallah” – Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Lieberman's office said in response: "The remarks reflect the minister's best judgment."

In recent weeks, Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have accused Iran of trying to expand its military influence in southern Syria near the Israeli border. They have warned that Tehran’s moves will not be ignored.

For its part, the Israel Defense Forces classified Saturday’s rocket fire as unusual and was wary of calling it stray fire as part of exchanges between the Assad regime and rebels. The fact that the rocket fire occurred in the early morning when no fighting was taking place increased suspicions that it was deliberate.

In any case, Lieberman said Israel still held the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad responsible, and called on Assad and the Russian forces operating in Syria to restrain Hezbollah.

On Saturday, Israel struck three Syrian artillery vehicles in response to the four or five rockets that landed in the Golan Heights.

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