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Israel will respond forcefully to border threats, PM says after strikes on Islamic State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security and defense tour in the Golan Heights, near the Israeli border with Syria, in April 2016. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security and defense tour in the Golan Heights, near the Israeli border with Syria, in April 2016. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented Monday on the Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, saying Israel will not allow any radical jihadist group to get a foothold on its borders.

The IAF mounted two strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria between Sunday and Monday. The air force killed four Islamic State operatives Sunday after the terrorists fired mortars and artillery on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Golani Brigade troops patrolling the Israel-Syria border. Monday’s strike targeted an Islamic State post on the southern edge of the Syrian Golan Heights.

The post, an abandoned military instillation once used by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force stationed in the buffer zone between Israel and Syria, was used by an Islamic State proxy in southern Syria to gain a foothold near the border. The IAF dropped 10 one-ton bombs on the site, leveling the facility and destroying the weapons stored there.

“Over the past few days there have been several attempts to attack Israeli troops on the Israel-Syria border. We mounted a swift, forceful response and exacted a heavy price from our enemies,” Netanyahu said Monday in a weekly meeting of the Likud party.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and we will enforce the policy I have set: We will not tolerate sporadic fire, we will respond forcefully to any incident, and if need be — we will strike our enemies before they attack us. We will not allow radical Islam or any other hostile element to impose a terrorist front on us in the Golan Heights,” he said.

Speaking at a Yisrael Beiteinu party meeting, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel will respond to any provocation on its borders.

“This is actually the first time when we’ve encountered an attack by an Islamic State-affiliated cell on our soldiers. We responded the way we always do—in a forceful way,” he said. “Let me be clear: We will respond to any provocation, regardless if it is from the Gaza Strip or anywhere else.”

Lieberman noted that the IAF does not need to coordinate its operations with Russia, whose air force is involved in the civil war in Syria.

In September 2015, Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two leaders agreed to set up a mechanism to prevent unintended friction between the Israeli and Russian militaries in light of Russia’s growing military presence in Syria.

“There’s no need to coordinate [Israel’s current operations] with anyone,” Lieberman said. “Any attack on Israeli soldiers in Israel’s sovereign territory is met with a forceful response. Once we identify the source of the fire, we respond. When we don’t identify the source, [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s regime is the one responsible. In this case, we identified an Islamic State cell firing from a certain location, fired and destroyed their post.”

An IDF Spokesperson’s Unit statement said that the Israeli strikes “aimed to prevent the terrorists from becoming a substantial threat in the area. The IDF will continue to spare no effort to defend the Israeli public while maintaining the military’s freedom of operation in Israel’s sovereign territory, and it will not hesitate to counteract terrorist organizations threatening Israel.”

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