White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself


Fragments of a Syrian anti-aircraft missile found in Alonei Abba, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from where the remains of a crashed F-16 Israeli war plane were found, at the village of Alonei Abba, Israel, Feb. 10, 2018.

A statement from the White House press secretary Sunday affirmed that “Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria.”

The statement follows Israel’s attack Saturday on a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel conducted the air strikes after anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a raid on Iranian-backed positions in Syria. Earlier Israel said it had shot down an Iranian drone launched from Syria after it entered Israeli territory late Friday.

The White House statement urged “Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace.”

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 28, 2018.

FILE – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 28, 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday “We will continue to harm anyone who tries to harm us.” That “has been our policy,” the prime minister said, ” and that will continue to be our policy.

Also Sunday, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general said that “all concerned in Syria and the region have a responsibility and must abide by international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.” The secretary-general has also called for “all to work for an immediate and unconditional de-escalation of violence and exercise restraint.”

US: Israel entitled to protect itself

On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Defense also said that Israel is entitled to protect itself against acts of aggression.

“Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people,” said Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway, who added the U.S. was not involved in the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I reiterated to him our obligation and right to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory,” he said. “We agreed coordination between our armies would continue,” said Netanyahu, who also discussed the strike with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Syria: New Israeli aggression

Syria’s state media said earlier Saturday Syria is responding to “new Israeli aggression,” following the Israeli raid.

In Saturday’s raid, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was downed by the Syrian Army with anti-aircraft fire.

The Israeli pilots were able to eject themselves from their aircraft, the IDF said. Israel said one pilot was “severely injured” in the “emergency evacuation,” while another pilot was slightly injured.

Feras Shehabi, a Syrian lawmaker, said Syria’s response to Israel’s assault signals a “major shift in the balance of power in favor of Syria and the axis of resistance.” He said “Israelis must realize they no longer have superiority in the skies or on the ground.”

IDF spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said, “Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn’t know how it will end. We are prepared for a variety of incidents …whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

The Syrian attack resulted in air raid sirens being activated in the Golan Heights and Beit She’an, but no casualties were reported.

“The IDF will continue to operate against attempts to infiltrate Israeli airspace and will act with determination to prevent any violations of Israel’s sovereignty,” an IDF spokesperson said Saturday.

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