Israel Won't Allow Chemical Weapons From Syria to Reach Hezbollah, Defense Minister Says

Day after second reported attack, Lieberman says there's no desire to intervene in Syrian conflict while criticizing EU-funded 'legal war' being waged against Israel in the West Bank.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at Knesset. December 2016.
Photo: Emil Salman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that although "Israel has no intention of intervening in the civil war in Syria," it would not allow chemical weapons to reach Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The defense minister also said that internationally funded NGOs, some with the EU's support, were waging a "legal war of attrition" against Israel in the courts.

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Speaking a day after Israel's second reported attack in Syria, the defense minister said that "Israel's policy is clear and based on three red lines: We won't allow any harm to come to our citizens, we won't allow our sovereignty to be infringed on and we will not allow advanced weapons or chemical weapons from Syria to be smuggled to Lebanon for Hezbollah."

In a possible reference to Russian presence in Syria, Lieberman asked to clarify that Israel acts "freely" in the area "without taking into account the circumstances or other restrictions."

>> Strike in Syria: Is Israel playing Russian roulette? | Analysis

Pivoting to more domestic issues, the defense minister also blasted what he called the "legal warfare" begin waged against Israel in the courts "by international actors, with international funding, including by European countries."

The defense establishment, he said, "is currently dealing with 260 petitions to the High Court of Justice: 110 of them against Jewish settlement [in the West Bank] and another 150 petitions against Israel [filed] by Palestinians on illegal construction [in the West Bank] and other things."

He said the defense ministry was buckling under the legal burden: "We're just not prepared to deal with this in terms of manpower and resources.

"Most of these petitions are meant to harass and heckle the defense establishment and we need to reach some dialogue with the court because it is impossible that anyone can file a petition and get a hearing."

According to Syrian state news agency SANA, Israel "launched a number of surface-to-surface missiles from inside the occupied territories" at the Mezze Military Airport in Damascus, not far from Bashar Assad’s palace on Wednesday. SANA called the incident "a desperate attempt to support the terrorist groups and raise their morale."

Last week, Syria said that Israeli jets attacked west of Damascus, with reports in Arab media saying an arms convoy intended for Hezbollah was the target. The news came amid tensions along Israel's northern border after clashes between the Israeli army and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group.

Foreign reports of Israeli attacks on Syria