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Netanyahu warns new Syrian ceasefire endangers Israel

JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli reporters in Paris on Sunday that the new ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia puts Israel in grave danger since it validates Iran’s presence inside Syria. It’s one of the few times Netanyahu’s position is at odds with the Trump administration.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the ceasefire last week when they met at the G20 summit.  At the time, Trump tweeted “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

But according to Israeli media reports, the ceasefire arrangement does not address Iranian expansion inside Syria, their proxy army Hezbollah or the presence of Shiite militias.

Retired Major General Yaakov Amidror, who served as national security advisor to Netanyahu, expressed two major concerns in a phone call with reporters earlier Monday.

“One is about the big strategy that the Iranians are implementing now, having a direct corridor on land from Baghdad to Damascus and that will bring the Iranians for the first time in modern history to have a direct land corridor from Tehran through Baghdad into Damascus and to the Mediterranean,” Amidror said, adding “We will have the Iranians on our [Israel’s] border with direct connection to Iran.”

This development would allow Iran freedom of movement for men, munitions and supplies from Iran to Israel’s doorstep. It also threatens Sunni nations in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Jordan.  King Abdullah II once warned about a Shiite crescent forming in the region that would tip the strategic balance toward Iran.

Amidror’s second concern would be Iranian and Hezbollah bases built inside Syria.

“That would make the situation much more complicated for Israel,” he continued. “Even without the corridor it is giving launching bases in Syria to Hezbollah and the Iranians.”

He soberly added, “And Israel should prevent it whatever will be the price … that might lead the IDF to intervene and to destroy every attempt to build infrastructure in Syria.  We will not let the Iranians and Hezbollah to be the forces which will be win from the long and very brutal war in Syria and to move the focus into Israel.”

Amidror blamed the world for staying silent in the face of this Iranian expansion inside Syria and for also allowing Hezbollah to build its military capabilities inside Lebanon.  Netanyahu warned of Hezbollah’s aggressive military armaments, including reported arms manufacturing facilities, inside Lebanon.

He told the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, “In our meeting [with French President Macron], I sent clear, forceful messages about Hezbollah’s continued consolidation in the country with sophisticated arms, some of which they want to manufacture on Lebanese soil and some of which they want to import from Syria. I told him the seeds are being sown here for a very serious conflict between Israel and Lebanon, and the Lebanese government shouldn’t take steps that would push such a conflict forward.”

This article originally appeared on CBN News, July 17, 2017, and reposted with permission.

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Chris Mitchell
Chris is CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem.

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