Netanyahu praises Syria strikes, Hezbollah dismisses them as failure
PM Netanyahu lauds Western response to chemical attack in Syria, warning Syria's future is in peril as Iran plans to entrench itself and turn it into its forward base, while Hezbollah leader Nasrallah claims US-led strikes failed to achieve anything beneficial for the US or Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coupled praise for US-led strikes on Syrian targets on Saturday with a warning that Iran’s presence there further endangers Syria, while the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah claimed the strikes had failed to terrorize the Syrian army, help insurgents or even serve Israel’s interests.
US, British and French forces hit Syria with air strikes overnight in response to an alleged poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last week. US President Donald Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until Assad’s government stopped its use of chemical weapons.
"Early this morning, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom demonstrated that their commitment is not limited to proclamations of principle," Netanyahu said in a written statement.
Netanyahu said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must understand that "his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endangers Syria."
An Israeli official said Israel was notified of the strikes ahead of time. Asked how much warning Israel had received, the official told Reuters: "Between 12 and 24 hours, I believe."
Asked whether Israel helped choose targets, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Not to my knowledge."
A US embassy spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that Israel had been notified before the strikes, but she provided no further details.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that the strikes on Syria had failed to terrorize the army, help insurgents or even serve Israel’s interests.
Nasrallah said the US military had kept its strikes limited because it knew a wider attack would spark retaliation from Damascus and its allies.
"The American (military) knows well that going towards a wide confrontation and a big operation against the regime and the army and the allied forces in Syria could not end," Nasrallah said at a rally in Lebanon’s Bekaa.
"Any such confrontation would inflame the entire region."
Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah has been a vital ally of Damascus in Syria’s seven-year war, helping it regain territory from rebels and Islamic State militants.
The Hezbollah military and political movement, which has lawmakers in the Lebanese parliament, fights alongside the Syrian army.
Iran’s involvement in Syria in support of Assad has alarmed Israel, which has said it will counter any threat. The armed Iranian-backed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, which has an extensive missile arsenal, last fought a war with Israel in 2006.
Syria, Iran and Russia say Israel was behind an air strike on a Syrian air base on Monday that killed seven Iranian military personnel, something Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Netanyahu and urged him to do nothing to destabilize Syria, according to a Kremlin statement.
Netanyahu said Israel would not allow Iran to establish itself in Syria, according to his office.
Israel has mounted air strikes in Syria on a regular basis, targeting suspected weapons shipments to Lebanese Hezbollah.