A day after a reported Israeli air strike on an Iranian military base outside Damascus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in English condemning the Islamic Republic’s presence in Syria.
“Let me reiterate Israel’s policy: We will not allow a regime hell-bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria as it seeks to do for the express purpose of eradicating our state,” Netanyahu said in a televised address that will be aired in full at the Saban Forum in Washington, which is taking place this week.
The statement, which was pre-recorded before Shabbat began but was only released on Saturday, took on new meaning as reports about the strike surfaced on Friday evening.
The strike, which according to foreign media outlets, was made from Lebanese air space, follows a recent pattern of similar moves by Israel.
In the last several months, Israel has carried out several air strikes, including on a weapons depot, a chemical weapons facility, an airport outside of the capital, and artillery positions, including at least one on a regime jet.
Israel claims the strikes have been in self-defense. A recent report in a Kuwaiti newspaper included a statement from Israeli officials who said that the government had vowed to destroy any Iranian positions within 40 km of the northern border with Syria.
A report from the BBC in September alleged that Iran had established a military base in Syria, south of the capital; while Iranian forces may not have an overwhelming presence in the country, many of the militias – including Lebanon’s Hezbollah – that are aligned with the Syrian regime are bankrolled and armed by the Islamic Republic.