Israel Struck 'Almost All of the Iranian Infrastructure in Syria,' Defense Chief Says

Avigdor Lieberman says Israel does not seek escalation, but won't allow Iran to turn Syria into a 'forward base' against Israel. 'I hope we finished this chapter and everyone got the message'

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks the morning after Israel and Iran exchange rocket fire at the IDC Herzeliya, May 10, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that Israel struck ''almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria" overnight in response to a rocket barrage at its military outposts in the Golan Heights. He confirmed that no rockets landed in Israeli territory.

Lieberman said that Israel won't allow Iran to turn Syria into a "forward base" against Israel and that, as opposed to the Iranians, Israel has no desire to expand their military presence to create new proxies and fronts.

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"I hope we finished this chapter and everyone got the message," Lieberman said, adding that Israel does not want the situation to escalate. He added a warning: “If it rains on us, it will pour on them.”

"Iran is truly the only country today that represents extremism, not just ideologically but also in its willingness to sacrifice its citizens, sacrifice its future for this same extremist ideology, the defense chief said.

Early Thursday, Israel attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in what the military said was the most extensive strike in the neighboring country in decades. The strike was carried out in response to a barrage of 20 rockets that was fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts.

Israel said the targets of the retaliatory attack included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire. 

This is the first time Israel directly accused Iran of firing towards Israeli territory. Tehran issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force. 

This attack comes on the heels of a Syrian report Tuesday accusing Israel of carrying out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israel.

Lieberman also spoke to the misdirection of Iranian funds from the country's economy to military expenditures. “So far, [Iran] has invested $13 billion on its adventure in Syria," he said.

"The entire financing of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad costs a huge amount of money and this comes at the expense of citizens who are suffering in Iran. In Tehran, we see the younger generation asking why the rulers are continuing to waste money,” he added.

The defense minister then shifted his focus to the internal situation in Syria, saying “Assad is fighting for his survival. It is a brutal regime that does not hesitate to murder its own citizens. We are talking about almost 600,000 murdered during the seven years of civil war, with the help of Hezbollah, Iranians and Shi’ite militias.”   

Without the $13 billion in Iranian aid Assad would not have survived and his ability to oppose the wishes of the Iranian forces, even if he wanted to, would be very limited, Lieberman added.

As for the defense budget, Lieberman said Israel should invest more in firepower in the north and “we will convince the treasury and National Security Council to implement a five-year plan for protecting the home front.”  

Reuters contributed to this report