Israeli Defense Minister: “We will do whatever is necessary to safeguard the security of Israel’s citizens”
- 10,000s Rally Again Across Idlib Province
- Displaced Syrians Being Forced Out of Rukban as Medical Center Shuts?
Israel said on Thursday that it will continues missile strikes inside Syria on the Assad regime and its Iranian ally, days after a Russian surveilliance plane was downed by regime anti-aircraft fire during an Israeli attack.
The Israelis said they would work harder on “deconfliction” arrangements established with the Russian military from September 2015, after Moscow’s initial denunciations of “irresponsible and unfriendly actions”.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli radio on Thursday, “We will do whatever is necessary to safeguard the security of Israel’s citizens …and we will not hold these discussions over the airwaves.”
However, Lieberman refrained from repeating the assertion of Israeli “freedom of action” over Syria.
Naftali Bennett, also in Israel’s Security Cabinet, said in another radio interview, “We will of course strengthen these [Israeli-Russian deconfliction] mechanisms. We will do everything so as not to harm anyone we do not intend to, God forbid.”
Fifteen Russian crew were killed on Monday night when the IL-20 surveillance plane crashed in the Mediterranean, 27 km (17 miles) from Baniyas in regime-controlled western Syria.
In the hours after the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry initially suggested that the downing was tied to not only Israeli missiles but also those from a French warship, even though France was not involved in the attacks. The Ministry settled on the line that Israel was to blame because its F-16s supposedly used the Il-20 for cover, putting the Russian plane at risk.
The Israel Defense Forces responded that their attacking jets had already left the area and had returned to Israeli airspace when the Assad regime’s military fired Russian-made SS-20 missiles, one of which hit the Il-20.
After a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian leader Vladimir Putin backed away. He said the incident was a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and withdrew the Defense Ministry’s threats of reprisals.
But the Russian Embassy in Israel renewed criticism yesterday:
Moscow views as irresponsible and unfriendly actions of Israeli Air Force,which exposed Russian Il-20 aircraft to danger and lead to death of 15 servicemen.Russia would take all necessary measures to eliminate threat to life and security of our military fighting against terrorism pic.twitter.com/aEgFQhikIk
— Russia🇷🇺 in Israel (@israel_mid_ru) September 20, 2018
Israel has periodically carried out missile strikes on regime targets since the Syrian uprising began in 2011. Initially the attacks concentrated on preventing transfer of weapons and rockets from Iran to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another essential ally for the Assad regime, and on deterring any Iranian and Hezbollah presence in southwest Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In the past year, the strikes have expanded on regime positions, including major bases, across the country in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that all Iranian and Iranian-led personnel withdraw.
10,000s Rally Again Across Idlib Province
Tens of thousands of people have rallied for the fourth straight Friday across Idlib Province in northwest Syria, chanting for the Syrian Revolution and against any renewed threat of a Russia-regime offensive.
Rallies were organized around the theme, “Neither Reconstruction nor Constitution Before Assad is Ousted”. Gatherings were reported in cities and towns, including Idlib, Dana, Khan Sheikhoun, Ma’arat al-Numan, Ariha, Taftanaz, Kafranbel, and Jisr al-Sheghour.
Displaced Syrians Being Forced Out of Rukban as Medical Center Shuts?
Reports are circulating of pressure on displaced Syrians to leave the large Rukban camp near the Jordanian border.
UPDATE: UN official in Damascus tells us the #Rukban clinic 'has not been accessible to people for over a week. The clinic used to treat 250 people per day. Several people, including children are reportedly in urgent need of medical care.'
— Syria Direct (@SyriaDirect) September 20, 2018
The UN-run medical clinic, serving an estimated 60,000 people in Rukban, was closed on Sunday without explanation. That leaves only nurses’ clinics, which are very low on supplies. Medicine is prohibitively expensive if it is available.
About 75,000 displaced moved into the area on a demilitarized no-man’s land between the Syrian and Jordanian borders, known as the “berm”, after attacks by the Islamic State in 2015. Jordan closed the border in June 2016 following an ISIS bombing that killed Jordanian border guards.
Ruba al-Homsi, a nurse who runs Rukban’s only clinic providing free health care, said earlier this week that at least three patients died at her facility since the closure of the UN medical point. She said transfer of patients into the UN medical center were halted.
The Free Idlib Police said 5,000 of those in Rukban have registered to leave for opposition areas in northwest Syria, under an agreement with Russia.