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Israeli Threats to Destroy Syria’s Air Defense Aimed at 'Advancing Own Interest'

© AP Photo / Amir Kholousi, ISNA FILE -- In this Dec. 29, 2016 file photo, released by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a long-range S-200 missile is fired in a military drill in the port city of Bushehr, on the northern coast of Persian Gulf, Iran
FILE -- In this Dec. 29, 2016 file photo, released by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a long-range S-200 missile is fired in a military drill in the port city of Bushehr, on the northern coast of Persian Gulf, Iran - Sputnik International
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Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has warned that Israel will destroy Syrian air defense systems if it attempts to down Israeli aircraft again. The warning came after the Syrian S-200 air defense system shot down an Israeli warplane and hit another.

The Syrian military officials said that the aircraft targeted a military site near Palmyra, whereas Israel says that they were aimed at an alleged weapons shipment to Hezbollah.

Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with professor Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from Tel Aviv University.

“For the last several years when the Israeli intelligence gets information about a shipment of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah through Syria, Israel sends aircraft to attack that specific weaponry. The idea was not to interfere in the Syrian war or attack Syrian army positions but to attack shipment of weapons to Hezbollah,” Zisser said.

He further spoke about which weapons Israel was trying to destroy saying that it was probably air missiles, as Hezbollah has so many of those already.

Regarding Liberman’s response to this incident threatening to destroy Syria’s defense systems, the professor said, “The response is mainly rhetoric although sometimes in the Middle East rhetoric does lead to action and that needs to be avoided.”

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Zisser further said that, “Israelis are following their own interest. These weapons are supplied to Hezbollah through Syrian territories so that makes Syria an enemy and in the eyes of Israel why not use the opportunity while Assad is struggling and is so busy with his own problems. Israel is using this as opportunity to advance its own interest.”

Russia and Israel sort of had an agreement that any military equipment going from Iran to Hezbollah to fight against Daesh would not be used to attack Israel. Talking about this agreement, the professor said that any escalation of tension between Syria and Israel also threatens Russia’s military positions.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Russian President Vladimir Putin only a week ago and they discussed those issues. Of course I think now there is an open channel aimed to avoid incidents like these … but Russia is working together with Iran to keep stability in Syria and that concerns Israel,” Zisser said.

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He further said that the mission is to maintain friendly relations between the two countries and at the same time to express concern.

“It is very good that Russia is playing the role because Russia has open channels to all sides and it’s in Russia’s interest but it can help all sides to avoid escalation and deterioration and so on,” the professor said.

Zisser further spoke about Hezbollah and whether it actually poses any threat to Israel.

On Friday, Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz confirmed the attacks saying that it targeted a convoy which was supposedly carrying weapons to the Shiite Hezbollah movement.

"The Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes on a convoy in Syria, carrying a batch of weapons for Hezbollah," Katz said in a statement, distributed by his press service.

The Syrian Army command said in a statement it had downed one of the Israeli Air Force jets that violated its airspace, while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) denied these claims to Sputnik.

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