Liberman: We Won’t Accept Any Iranian Presence in Syria

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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On a tour of the northern border Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman discussed the security situation in northern Israel. According to Liberman, Israel “has identified efforts to develop a terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan. This is unacceptable, and we will act with all the means available to us to prevent this. The government that is responsible for this will pay a heavy price for cooperating with terror forces.”

In recent days, the Syrian Army has gone on a major offensive against Syrian rebel groups in the south of the country. Israeli officials quoted in media outlets said that they expected the Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad to continue its campaign until it completely routs rebel groups – including asserting control over the Syrian side of the Golan. Assad’s army is being helped in this effort by Hezbollah and Iranian forces, which according to foreign reports Israel has attacked from time to time.

Among the effects of the Assad offensive is the rush of refugees to the Golan, with some 200,000 Syrians said to be ensconced on the Syrian side of the border. Liberman reiterated Tuesday that Israel was prepared to provide as much assistance as needed to the refugees, but could not admit any of them to Israel.

In addition, he demanded that Syrian troops remain outside of the neutral zone between Israel and Syria on the Golan. “Any Syrian soldier who will enter that area is taking his life into his hands,” Liberman said.

As far as reports that Iran – after a dressing-down by Russia – was planning to move its forces to forty kilometers away from the Israeli border – Liberman said that “the Iranian presence in Syria altogether is unacceptable. We are not prepared to accept an Iranian presence anywhere in Syria, and we will act against Iranian entrenchment in the country. It doesn’t matter if they withdraw 40 kilometers from the border or 80 – as soon as we identify an Iranian presence, we will act, as we have been doing until now.”