PM: US Navy in Ashdod is 'expression of American support'
Netanyahu tours guided-missile destroyer, seen in Israeli southern port for first time in 19 years, and emphasizes that warship's visit is a message to states 'in Middle East and beyond' that Israeli policy against Iranian entrenchment in Syria has 'full support' of Trump administration.
“This destroyer operates against the terror in Syria, and the alliance between Israel and the United States is very tight in so many fields but it is especially tight in the security field,” the prime minister stressed.
“We are determined to act in order to defend ourselves against the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria and against the activity of its proxies there,” Netanyahu went on to say, before praising President Trump and the fact that he has given his “full support to our policy,” adding the destroyer’s anchoring in Ashdod “is an expression of that American support.”
Foreign navies generally prefer northern Haifa as their port of call, so USS Ross's arrival at Ashdod potentially signalled Washington's interest in broadened berthing options for its Mediterranean Sixth Fleet.
The prime minister toured the ship and emphasized that it has been nearly two decades since the last time an American destroyer was seen in the southern Port of Ashdod, which makes the visit of the destroyer “very significant.”
“It symbolizes the deep alliance between Israel and the United States … I think that this message has been received throughout the Middle East and I think that it has even been received beyond the Middle East,” he exclaimed.
Netanyahu also addressed the neutralization of a Hamas terror tunnel in the Gaza Strip by the IDF, earlier on Thursday.
“We are systematically dismantling the tunneling capability of Hamas. They must understand that it would not be worth their while to try us,” he warned.
In addition, the prime minister talked about the recent surge of terror incidents in the West Bank, one of which took took place just hours before Netanyahu’s visit to Ashdod, and saw an IDF reservist being stabbed by a Palestinian perpetrator, who is still on the run from the security forces.
“Regarding the West Bank, we are determined to act against terror everywhere, to find the murderers, to find the terrorists,” he said referring also to the manhunt for the terrorist who last week carried out a shooting attack at the Alon recycling factory which left two people dead.
“We operate throughout the region—Syria, Gaza and many other places about which I will not go into detail, with all necessary determination in order to maintain the security of Israel," he said aboard the destroyer, where he was accompanied by his wife Sara, the ship's captain and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
A ceremony marking 243 years of the US Navy was then held on the ship’s deck with many senior Israeli officials, including Ambassador Friedman and Netanyahu himself, present.
Reuters contributed to this report.