Netanyahu: Israel will intensify fight against Iran, Hezbollah in Syria after US withdrawal
Israel will escalate its fight against Iranian-backed terrorists in Syria after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Some Israeli officials have said U.S. President Donald Trump’s move, announced on Wednesday, could help Iran by removing a U.S. garrison that stems the movement of Iranian forces and weaponry into Syria from Iraq.
Israel also worries that its main ally’s exit could reduce its diplomatic leverage with Russia, the Syrian government’s big-power backer.
“We will continue to act very aggressively against Iran’s efforts to entrench in Syria,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks, referring to an Israeli air campaign in Syria against Iranian deployments and arms transfers to Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists, carried out with Moscow often turning a blind eye.
“We do not intend to reduce our efforts. We will intensify them, and I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the United States.”
President Trump cited what he described as a victory over ISIS terrorists in Syria as warranting the U.S. withdrawal, but Iran and its Shi’ite Muslim militias sent to reinforce Damascus, pose the greater threat.
“Daesh has indeed been defeated in Syria, and this is greatly thanks to America,” Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said. “But Iranians are already moving in, and they are a threat to the whole free world.”
“Of course the American decision is not good for us. But we know that safeguarding Israel’s security is also an American interest in the region,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.
Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States, living under the protection of U.S forces and the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), reacted with alarm at the surprise announcement by President Trump, calling the move “a stab in the back.”