US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Cairo, Egypt, beginning a trip through the Middle East as he faces confrontational talks at almost every stop on his five-country tour.
Tillerson started his trip on Sunday, but a key US ally, Israel, is conspicuously absent from his itinerary.
When the trip was first announced this week, with stops in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Kuwait, Israeli politicians rebuked Tillerson for skipping Israel.
“The consistent absence of the Secretary of State [from] Israel is probably unprecedented,” former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tweeted.
Shapiro called Tillerson not stopping in Israel a “mistake” and tweeted it was “yet another blow to Tillerson’s credibility as an authoritative voice for US policy.”
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, Tillerson said Washington remained committed to achieving a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel.
General Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense, declared that he did not have any proof that Syria had ever, at any time, used chemical weapons – neither in 2013 nor in 2017 when the White House ordered the bombing of the airbase at Shayrat as a reprisal measure for the chemical attack that the Syrian government had allegedly undertaken against the base at Khan Sheikhoun.
However, only two weeks before this declaration, that is on 23 January, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, participated at an International Conference in Paris “against impunity when chemical weapons are used”, accusing President al-Assad of having repeatedly used this type of weapon.
Israel has long been the unchallenged bully in the Middle East, but now Tel Aviv will face consequences for its temper tantrums. That was the message from Damascus last weekend when the Syrian army shot down an Israeli F-16.
The dramatic escalation happened as Israel claimed one of its warplanes was in Syrian airspace to intercept an Iranian drone that had been operating in Israeli territory. But, in reality, the Iranian drone was intercepted in the Golan Heights, which is Syrian land that has been illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.
Of course, this didn’t stop major western publications like the Wall Street Journal from referring to the Golan as “Israeli airspace.” Nevertheless, the mainstream media was left in disbelief by the incident—the New York Times, for example, was startled to discover that “Israeli jets aren’t invincible.”
As usual, Israel painted itself as a victim of irrational Arab aggression. However, in fact, Syria was clearly acting in self-defence against repeated Israeli violations of its sovereignty.
Even the head of the Israeli Air Force Air Division confessed that his country has carried out “thousands of operations in Syria” in the last year alone. This fact was missing from most mainstream news accounts, which portrayed Israel as a non-interventionist bystander in the Syrian conflict. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only has Israel repeatedly bombed Syrian government installations, it has also armed Jihadist rebel groups in the Golan Heights, coordinated with Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate against government forces and provided medical treatment to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked rebels before sending them back into battle.
Support for Al-Qaeda in Syria serves two strategic purposes for Tel Aviv. One reason is to weaken Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese political party that defends Lebanon’s borders from Israel and Salafi Jihadist groups alike. The second purpose is to solidify its takeover of the Golan.
Don’t take my word for it, Israeli officials have said as much. The former head of Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) admitted to Al Jazeera that Israel provides medical treatment to Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria. And, since 2012, the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the peacekeeping mission responsible for monitoring the 1974 ceasefire line between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights, has documented dozens of interactions between the Israeli army and Syrian insurgents. On top of that, there are Syrians who defected from the Free Syrian Army after discovering the relationship between Israel and the rebel groups in the Golan.
For people living in the region, the downing of Israel’s F-16 felt like long-overdue retaliation, while Tel Aviv tried desperately to paint the escalation as a fight with Iran. But it was Damascus, not Tehran which downed the fighter jet in a deliberate calculation, which was not made lightly. This was, after all, the first time since 1982 that Syria has shot down an Israeli plane.
The leadership in Damascus has warned time and again that it would eventually respond to Israeli aggression, and it finally did, sending a message that Israel cannot continue to violate Syria’s sovereignty without a response.
Israel responded by striking what it called Iranian bases and claiming to have wiped out most of Syria’s air defenses. But, according to the Syrian government, Israel struck bases from which Syria and its allies target Al-Qaeda in Idlib, essentially making Israel into Al-Qaeda’s air force.
After years of western attempts to overthrow the Syrian regime, one thing is clear: the Syrian state has remained intact and is winning the war, having retaken almost all of the territory it lost to rebel groups that were armed and funded by western and gulf states. The Syrian state has been able to take back territory due in large part to assistance provided by its allies, particularly Russia.
The next war
There will eventually be a showdown between Israel and Hezbollah. But the rules of the game have changed dramatically in Hezbollah’s favor since the two last fought. In the 2006 war, Hezbollah gave Israel a bloody nose but Lebanon was devastated in the process. In any future war, Hezbollah will be able to do far more damage to Israel. The organization is much stronger, far better armed and is able to carry out offensive maneuvers after gaining extensive battlefield experience against jihadists in Syria. Also, any future war with Israel will likely include the involvement of Hezbollah’s allies in Syria and Iraq, transforming what would otherwise be a local conflict into a regional one.
Israel is afraid to test these waters, so, for the time being, the Israelis are not interested in a hot war with the group. After all, it was the Syrian army that downed the plane using Russian anti-aircraft S-200s. Russia’s involvement in Syria complicates Israel’s ambitions as Israel cannot go to war with Russia. Moreover, Israel does not have the same backing as usual from its American benefactors. While there are almost no limits on the amount of aggression Israel can inflict on Palestinians, Syria is a far more complicated battlefield involving major world powers.
Both the US and Russia have personnel on the ground in Syria–the US is supporting the Syrian “Democratic” Forces, while Russia is backing the government. Turkey, a member of NATO, has troops occupying areas of northern Syria and is fighting the Kurds in Afrin. Meanwhile, Iran has advisers on the ground assisting Syrian government forces against Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. This month, a Turkish helicopter was shot down by the US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria, a Russian plane was downed by Jihadists in Idlib, an Iranian drone was blown up by Israel, an Israeli F-16 was destroyed by Syria, and the US has claimed it killed up to 100 pro-government forces in airstrikes near Deir Ezzor.
Thus, if Israel escalates the situation in Syria, too much can go wrong. And judging from the State Department’s weak words of support for Israel in the aftermath of the F-16 crash, the US does not seem interested in backing an Israeli war at this time because it risks a hot war with Russia and undermines the ongoing fight against ISIS, which is an American priority.
However, Israel fears Hezbollah’s growing strength and Iran’s growing influence as a threat to its regional hegemony—a concern shared by its Saudi and American counterparts—and will continue its provocations in Syria in an effort to counter what it sees as a growing Iranian presence next door. There are also domestic Israeli considerations that may influence their actions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently facing a corruption probe and potential indictment, which has saturated the Israeli press and has led to protests against him. Of course, war can serve as an excellent distraction under such circumstances.
At the same time, Damascus has warned it will no longer take acts of Israeli aggression lying down, demonstrating that after seven years of attempted regime change in Syria by western powers, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah–known by their many supporters in the region as “the resistance axis” for their role in challenging western imperialism—are in a position of strength. And they are on a collision course with Israel.
Syrian force shot down 13 Israeli air-launched cruise missiles during Feb. Israeli Aggression with Russian Pantsir-S1s
[ Editor’s Note: We finally have some officially reported details of the recent Israeli Airforce attack on Syria. The main disclosure is the Syrian had used the Pantsir-S short range system, specifically designed to take down cruise missiles when closing on their targets.
These systems have a variety of missiles to use depending on the altitude and type of incoming threat, plus a 30mm cannon as a last defense for itself.
Behind the weapons is the high tech radar tracking, also design to defend against swarm missile attacks which is the name of the game in modern warfare. We will be following closely the responses we get on this from various capitals.
The Russians had to be involved, particularly in early warning to the Syrian defense crews. A lot of coordination is needed to make sure the attacking force can be properly analyzed so the appropriate gun positions are assigned specific targets.
Timing is critical as in this case, Syrian fire might have been withheld until the Israeli planes launched their missiles. The Pantsirs (I am assuming more then one system) would have engaged those and then other missiles fired on the retreating Israeli planes.
The speed with which all this has to be done is incredible, and one would have to ask were Russians actually manning the Pantsir systems, as they require very highly trained people.
Israel has countered this news by claiming it took our a large part of Syrian air defenses, but without the usual video camera proof, the only one so far showing a panel truck at the T-4 base being struck.
The other big part of the story is how Israel quickly launched a second attack, designed to have empty Syrian batteries as easy targets, but Syria claims to have shot down most of the second wave, showing that the “Russian advised” air defense system had war-gamed for consecutive attacks like this. We should be hearing more on this… Jim W. Dean ]
The Syrian military shot down 13 Israeli air-launched cruise missiles additionally to the F-16I multirole fighter, which later crashed in Israel, during the February 10 encounter in Syrian airspace, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported on February 14 citing a source in the Syrian General Staff. MORE ABOUT THE ENCOUNTER
According to the report, the Syrian military used S-200, Buk and Pantsir-S systems against Israeli aircraft and missiles. During the first strike on Syria, Israeli aircraft reportedly launched 11 air-launched cruise missiles. 8 of them were intercepted. During the second strike, Israeli aircraft launched 7 air-launched cruise missiles. Syrian forces intercepted 5 of them.
The report added that the missiles were the key target of Syrian forces. The only aircraft, which violated Syrian airspace, was also shot down.
It was the aforementioned F-16I. Russian and Syrian sources reached by Izvestia did not deny or confirm reports that the F-16I was targeted with an old-fashioned S-200 missile.
The article also provided additional details about the February 7 incident when Israeli warplanes struck the Damascus countryside. According to the article, Israeli aircraft launched 8 missiles and Syrian forces intercepted 6 of them.
Earlier this week, media reports claimed that a recent US airstrike in Syria left Russian servicemen dead, putting the figures anywhere from dozens to several hundred.
Those reports stemmed from anti-government fighters in Syria, who spread them accompanied by doctored images, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at her weekly news conference.
According to Zakharova, the US attack could have killed five people, purportedly Russian citizens, but this information still needs verification. She added that those who were killed in the airstrike did not serve in the Russian armed forces.
JERUSALEM (AP) — In its most serious engagement in neighboring Syria since fighting there began in 2011, Israel shot down an infiltrating Iranian drone Saturday and struck Iranian targets deep in Syria before one of its own jets was downed.
The sudden escalation offers what could be a harbinger of what lies ahead as the Syrian fighting winds down and an emboldened Iran establishes a military presence that Israel vows it will never accept.
Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli Cabinet just held a meeting near the Syrian border to highlight the new threats, which it attributes to Iran’s growing confidence given the success of the government of Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war thanks to their support.
Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling, raising the specter of a larger confrontation in an area that has remained largely stable since a monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.
“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened the top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv for long hours of emergency consultations throughout the Jewish Sabbath to discuss their next steps.
Netanyahu said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and vowed to strike back hard.
“Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel,” he said. “Israel holds Iran and its Syrian host responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”
Israel also appealed to the United Nations Security Council to denounce Iran’s aggression and “put an immediate end to Iranian provocations.”
Israel would not confirm whether its aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.
Israel fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah — Lebanon’s Iranian-backed political party and militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction. Though Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, it has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah — which is fighting alongside Syrian forces — almost 100 times since 2012.
But Israel has refrained from striking Iranian sites directly. Syria has also repeatedly said it will respond to Israeli airstrikes but has rarely returned fire. Both of those trends came to an abrupt end Saturday as a rapid escalation played out in the early morning hours.
At dawn, Israel said it shot down an Iranian unmanned aircraft that penetrated its airspace and then destroyed the Iranian site in central Syria that it said launched it. Upon their return, Israel’s jets came under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire and the pilots of one of the F-16s had to eject and the plane crashed in northern Israel. One pilot was seriously wounded and the other one lightly.
In subsequent attacks, the Israeli military said it struck four additional Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, causing significant damage. The Israeli jets again faced a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft missiles but returned home safely, as large explosions were reported in Syria and warning sirens blared in northern Israel.
Israel says the strikes destroyed the main command and control bunker of the Syrian military and marked its most devastating assault against Syria in decades.
Iran denied Israel’s shooting down of a drone, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem calling the account “ridiculous,” while the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies insisted the drone had not violated Israeli airspace and was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.
Regardless, Hezbollah said Saturday’s developments signaled a “new strategic phase” in engaging Israel, which has been mostly off the guerrilla group’s radar as it has been knee-deep in the fighting in Syria.
Former Syrian lawmaker and political commenter Sharif Shehade said the anti-aircraft fire marked a political decision in Syria to respond to Israeli strikes, and that tensions would continue to rise unless Washington and Moscow intervened to calm the situation.
“It is a decisive decision to confront the Israeli air force and its careless behavior,” he told The Associated Press in Damascus, “I think what happened today is a lesson for Israel.”
However, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, retired Lt. Col. Reuven Ben-Shalom, said the fierce Israeli response actually sent “very clear messages” to the other side, showing Iran how deep Israel’s knowledge was of its activity in Syria.
“The fact that a drone like this is identified, tracked and intercepted so smoothly by the Israeli air force demonstrates our capabilities, demonstrates our resolve not to allow the breach of Israeli sovereignty,” he said. “I think it’s good that our enemies learn and understand these capabilities.”
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Saturday’s incident marked the most “blatant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty” yet. He said while Israel had no interest in further escalation it was prepared to “extract a heavy price” for such aggression.
Conricus said Iran was “playing with fire” by directly sending the drone into Israel on a military mission.
Russia, which backs Assad and maintains a large military presence in the country, called for restraint and appeared to criticize Israel’s actions.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, in the Syria war. Both have sent forces to back Assad, who appears headed toward victory after years of fighting. Israel has said it will not accept a permanent military presence by Iran and its Shiite allies in Syria, especially near the Israeli border.
Israel has shot down several drones that previously tried to infiltrate its territory from Syria. The capture of an Iranian drone and the targeting of Iranian sites in response, however, marked a dramatic escalation in the Israeli retaliation. The military confirmed that the initial target in Syria — the unmanned aircraft’s launch components — was successfully destroyed and released grainy footage of the strike. Israel also said it had recovered the remnants of the drone, which proved that it belonged to Iran.
El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus and Amir Vahdat in Tehran contributed to this report.
Syrian people celebrate the downing of the aggressor Israeli f-16 aircraft. Earlier this morning, Saturday 10 February 2018, the Syrian air defense confronted another Israeli aggression, the second one during this week! This aggression was against our military base in the central area in Homs/ Al-Tayfor airbase. Also attacked by Israeli aggression was Damascus countryside.
Our air defense hit more than one air craft, nd shot down F-16 aircraft. Syrian air defense used our anti-aircraft missiles in thwarting the Israeli aggression, the downed Israeli warplane was shot down by Sam 5 Syrian missile. The Israeli pilots ejected the downed warplane, one of them is in serious conditions. Israel media considered the Syrian response to its warplane attack and downing it over the occupied Palestine territory as a “crack in the Israeli excellence.”
Ironically Israel the aggressor enemy of Syria, who frequently violates Syrian airspace illegally using the Lebanon sky to bomb any Syrian target this Zionist entity wants, like the research center in Jamraya or the airbases of our army, or even the Scientists Center in Mesyaf! Israel asked an urgent involvement of Russia and the US to contain the situation.
The US led coalition by its turn this occupier in Syria, by its turn didn’t miss a way to bomb the Syrian Arab Army, twice in Deir AlZour, killed tens of tens if not hundred from our soldiers! All these Israeli and American attacks on Syrian people, Army and infrastructure were in conjunction with AlNusra Front attacks on our people in Damascus, those terrorists who are located in al-Ghouta use Israeli, American and European made weapons, missiles and they launch their hatred missiles on our people every day! Other terrorists in Idlib who have MANPADs downed the Russian jet and killed pilot Maj. Roman Filipov.
They have more advanced weapons and they are a real threat to the coastline, however for the western media they are the innocent terrorists and the UN Is always ready to use the fake and staged sarin gas attack on Idlib! How perverse to defend those monsters.
Israel after this accident was in horror and embarrassment also because of the Syrian media and the report about both first the downing of the Israeli warplane and hitting many other air crafts, second for the Syrians who were really glad for us finally replying to the Israeli aggression on the same time. Syrians recognize that Israel is the original enemy and Syrians lost too much in this eight years of war and we see that we have nothing more to lose and we are ready fight the original enemy as this enemy never hides himself and attacks us nonstop.
The Israeli aggression has also affected more of our satellite channels! The Information Minister Imad Sarah has said that a number of Syrian satellite and radio stations have been subject to deliberate interference. Ironically, the Zionist Israel used to express in its media that they target the “pro-regime sites in Syria,” misnaming our government, the government of our people.
However all Syrians were happy to see the Israeli warplane cracked and burnt, and Syrians celebrated this success by bringing sweets to everyone in the street!
Israeli aggression against us proves it is pro-AlNusra Front in Syria!
God Bless our army; hopefully this great response from Syria on the Israeli attack, will be a gift to our martyrs souls, including those who killed by the other occupier, America.
Allah Bless Syria.
— Afraa Dahger
This week’s Israeli aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic, has literally blown up, courtesy of Syria’s air defense missiles. At least one Israel criminal bomber bomber jet was forced into flames, before being split apart, and two pilots being injured, one seriously.
In reading Israeli and NATO news, one must be cognizant that much of it is outright geopolitcal lying, and that the rare truths are distorted to switch the roles of criminal and victim. Something fetid was afoot when Netanyahu “paid a rare visit to the Israel – Syria front,” on Tuesday 6 February.
“Israel-Syria front” is the hasbara version of Newspeak; it means that Netanyahu went to the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to visit with his terrorist ISIS troops, and to deploy them to create a provocation. One of the known provocations was an alleged Iranian drone volleyed from the Syrian Golan, to the Syrian Golan, which Israel claims as its own, contrary to international law.
Two days later, Israel bombed Syria, and Ha’aretz reported only on the reports of the bombing, and of course blamed Hizbullah as the causative factor, if the reports of the actual bombing proved ‘true.’
Two days later, again, came a new Israeli aggression. This one was halted by the Syrian air defense system.
Israel aggression media have been intentionally fuzzy about what happened prior to Syria shooting down its illegal bomber jets. Its spokesmen indicted Iran for the “severe violation of Israeli sovereignty,” suggesting that the reputed Iranian drone flew from Iran into perhaps Tel Aviv. The “severe violation” of sovereignty belongs to Israel, which illegally flies through Lebanese airspace, and has illegally occupied a part of Syria‘s Golan (for details of the Golan, read about takfiri Moti Kahana, here.).
The UK’s terrorist-loving The Guardian, while supporting the Israeli aggression, reported that the jets had returned from a bombing mission in Tadmor, a bombing mission reputedly to destroy ”Iranian drone-making facilities.”
In fact: A drone was on a mission of exploration in Syria’s desert, looking for ISIS remnants, and al Qaeda’s first air force, the Israeli one, shot down the Syrian drone. The illegal IAF jet that was shot down by Syria was part of the Israeli aggression squadron that attacked the T4 airport where Russian forces are also positioned. Moscow has issued a ‘warning’ statement saying the endangering of its troops is unacceptable.
It is fascinating how the western supported terrorism against the SAR keeps mutating. In the early days, the support was for the takfiri yearning to breathe free. More recently, the terrorist support is because Iran! and because Hizbullah!
Note to the Clintonistas: During her campaign, Hillary’s badge of dishonor bragging was her claim that she incited Obama to obliterate Libya. During the final presidential debate, her key point in wanting to be POTUS was to obliterate Syria, in the same fashion. In a document released by the State Department 30 November 2015, Clinton stated that bringing down Assad..would also erase Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly.
Palestinians, by the way, sent a photo of sweets for Syrians:
מזל טוב, סוריה
— Miri Wood
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
A Turkish military helicopter was shot down during Ankara’s military offensive against Kurdish troops in northern Syria, Anadolu state news agency reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the downing of the helicopter, according to Turkish media. “A little earlier, one of our helicopters was shot down,” he told reporters, adding that those who are responsible for the incident would pay a “heavier price.”
The president, however, did not specify who was responsible for the attack.
On January 20, the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces announced the launch of Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin district. The operation has been conducted jointly with Free Syrian Army opposition forces which are friendly to Turkey.
Damascus has firmly condemned the operation as an assault on Syria’s sovereignty. Moscow, in turn, has urged all the parties to exercise restraint and called for respect for Syria’s territorial integrity.