Defense minister warns Assad regime after it unsuccessfully tried to shoot down IAF fighter jets on Friday night by firing an S-200 missile at it; ‘We have no interest in interfering in the Syrian civil war or clashing with the Russians, but we won’t hesitate to defend Israel’s security,’ Lieberman says.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened Sunday to destroy Syria’s air defense apparatus if it targets Israeli fighter jets again after the Assad regime tried to shoot down Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes over the weekend.
“We have no interest in interfering in the Syrian civil war, not for nor against (President Bashar) Assad, and we have no interest in clashing with the Russians,” Lieberman clarified during a visit to the IDF induction center.
“Our main problem is with the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon. That is why every time we identify an attempt to smuggle game-changing weapons, we will act to thwart it. There will be no compromise on this issue,” the defense minister stressed.
He added that “if the IDF does choose to act, there is a real reason for it.”
Israeli Arrow anti-aircraft missiles were used to intercept a Syrian S-200 missile fired at IAF jets that returned to Israeli territory after attacking targets in Syria on Friday night.
“Next time, if the Syrian aerial defense apparatus acts against our planes, we will destroy it,” Lieberman said. “We won’t hesitate. Israel’s security is above everything else; there will be no compromise.”
Similarly, he said, the IDF will respond to any rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip “with force.”
“We’ll cut down Hamas’s capabilities, we’re not willing to tolerate any provocation,” Lieberman said. “We won’t take money from the Israeli taxpayer to invest in electricity and water for the strip, while they are investing their money in tunnels.”
The defense minister also addressed his ongoing feud with Education Minister Naftali Bennett over disparaging remarks made by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein about women in the IDF. Lieberman called on the rabbi to resign and threatened to halt Defense Ministry recognition of the rabbi’s pre-army preparatory yeshiva, which angered Bennett.
“The IDF presents a variety of options—from Caracal (a co-ed battalion) to the Haredi Nahal (for ultra-Orthodox soldiers). Everyone has a place,” Lieberman determined. “This sweeping attack against women is unreasonable. We’ve tried to avoid friction with Levinstein. We’ve forgiven him twice before (for similar comments) and dragged our feet on this. A third time is too much.”
Lieberman added that Rabbi Levinstein will face a disciplinary hearing, in accordance with a legal opinion in the Defense Ministry.
(Translated and edited by Yaara Shalom)