Israeli Defense Chief Says Doesn't Know Who Struck in Syria, Warns Iran

On video of soldiers cheering after sniper shoots Palestinian, Avigdor Lieberman says: ‘The sniper deserves a medal, the photographer a court martial’

FILE PHOTO: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his delegation listen in Washington, October 19, 2017.
\ JONATHAN ERNST/ REUTERS

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that he was unaware of who conducted an airstrike, which Russia attributed to Israel, on a Syrian military base a day earlier.

“I don’t know what happened there and who attacked,” Lieberman said during a visit in northern Israel. “I know one thing with certainty: We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves in Syria, whatever the price may be. We have no other choice.”

>> Israel's Alleged Syria Airstrike Was Attempt to Curtail Iranian Air Power | Analysis

During a visit in the city of Katzrin in the Golan Heights, Lieberman stated that to accept Iran's establishment a military presence in Syria would be akin to “agreeing to the Iranians placing a noose around our necks. We will not allow it.”

There are those who can stop it without using military force, Lieberman added. “I hope these bodies will act and do the right thing. It is in their power to prevent Iran from establishing itself [in Syria] without unnecessary friction.

Asked whether he was worried about statements by U.S. President Donald Trump, who said recently that he would withdraw American troops from Syria, Lieberman said: “The United States is our greatest friend, the strategic partner that always stands by us, and we have seen this just in the past few days in the [UN] Security Council. At the same time, it is the greatest superpower in the world, with its own interests and policies, and we will respect any decision the White House makes.”

Lieberman also spoke out in defense of the IDF soldiers seen in a video clip that surfaced Monday. In the video, voices are heard cheering after watching a sniper shoot a Palestinian.

“The sniper deserves a medal, the photographer deserves a court martial,” said Lieberman. “There must be a completely clear equation. The IDF is the most moral army in the world. But there is no doubt – even when you are on the front lines and are under stress, and there are times you have relieve the stress – so it is possible to understand it.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett came out in defense of the soldiers in the video. “Anyone who has ever been on the battlefield knows that to sit in Tel Aviv or [television] studios and to make judgments based on the the comments of IDF soldiers, when they are busy defending our borders, is not legitimate,” said Bennett in an interview with Army Radio.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also defended the soldiers. “We have reached a level of insanity and delusion,” he told radio station Reshet Bet. “Was it so boring in this country over the last day that this video needs to receive such exposure? To take a situation from the battlefield, when soldiers are under stress, and explosive devices are being thrown at them, and attempts are being made to infiltrate [the border], and to take their human response and judge them from the armchairs in Tel Aviv?” said Erdan.

“No country in the world does such a thing,” he added. “It would have been best if the happy reactions were not circulated, but to judge then and conclude that something there was wrong is crazy,” he added.