Israel not getting involved in Syria civil war, defense minister says

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Israel is not getting involved in Syria’s civil war, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday, just days after two Israeli air strikes near Damascus sent regional tensions soaring.

The raids struck several military targets in the early hours of Friday and Sunday, with a senior Israeli source saying they destroyed Iranian missiles en route to Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement allied to Damascus.

Israel routinely refuses to relate to such reports, with Yaalon’s remarks the first official comment, albeit indirect, on the strikes.

“We are not getting involved in the civil war in Syria but we have made clear what our interests are,” he said on a tour of the area around the Gaza Strip in remarks broadcast on Israel’s main radio stations.

“We have laid down red lines among which are the transfer of sophisticated weapons to terror organizations like Hezbollah and others, or [the transfer of] chemical weapons, or violations of our sovereignty along the border,” he said.

“In all these incidents, we will act to protect the security of the state of Israel.”

Israel has repeatedly warned that it would not permit the transfer of advanced weapons or chemical agents to its arch-foe Hezbollah or to any other militant groups.

On January 30, another strike on Syrian soil, which was attributed to Israel, destroyed what military intelligence officials say was a shipment of Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles destined for Hezbollah.

Yaalon also referred to three instances of Syrian fire on the Golan Heights over the past 24 hours, which the military believes was unintentional fallout from the intense fighting on the Syrian side of the strategic plateau.

“The forces in the area are in place, and the moment there is fire from the Syrian side -- they don’t need authorization from me or from the chief of staff or from the regional commander -- when they identify the source of fire, they will destroy it,” he said.

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