Posted: Friday, April 7, 2017 – 10:01 AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supports the “strong and clear message” sent by a US strike on neighbouring Syria on Friday in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack.
The Israeli military said it had been informed in advance of a massive cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase, the first US operation against the Damascus regime in six years of civil war.
“In both word and action, President (Donald) Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
“Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Hours after those remarks, US Vice President Mike Pence called the Israeli premier and thanked him in Trump’s name for the Israeli support of the American attack in Syria, Netanyahu’s office said.
Pence also “updated Netanyahu on the details of the attack and its outcome”, it said.
“Netanyahu reiterated the need to prevent the distribution and use of chemical weapons,” his office said.
Trump said the strike on the Shayrat airbase with 59 Tomahawk missiles fired from warships in the eastern Mediterranean was in retaliation for what he said was a “barbaric” chemical attack on a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria by the Damascus regime.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the “clear and determined steps” taken “constitute a fitting and appropriate response to such unthinkable brutality.”
There had been international outrage over Tuesday’s suspected attack that killed dozens of civilians but Moscow stood by its Damascus ally and warned of the negative consequences of any military action.
As a result, a UN Security Council debate on a Western-drafted resolution was again delayed on Thursday amid Russian insistence that the chemical weapons that caused the deaths had been stockpiled by jihadists on the ground and released by a conventional strike.
Washington said it had given advance notification of its military action to both Russia and its Western and Arab allies in a coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
- ‘Message to allies’ -
Israel has repeatedly struck alleged weapons convoys in Syria they claim are bound for Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
However, it has been reluctant to be dragged into the civil war and has rejected calls for a more substantial intervention.
After Russia entered the war in support of its ally President Bashar al-Assad in late 2015, Moscow and Israel agreed to coordinate on their actions to avoid accidents.
Last month, Syria fired missiles at Israel after the Jewish state struck a number of sites in the country, in the worst flare-up between the two governments since the civil war began in 2011.
Netanyahu said at the time that the Israeli strikes targeted Hezbollah and warned the army would do so again if necessary.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Netanyahu and slammed “unfounded accusations” by the Israeli premier that Assad was responsible for the alleged chemical attack.
Moscow has said repeatedly that Tuesday’s deaths of dozens of civilians in Khan Sheikhun were the result not of a regime chemical attack but of toxic substances that had been stockpiled by jihadists.
Former Israeli security adviser Yaakov Amidror said US regional allies would take the strike as a sign Trump would be more willing to use force to protect their interests than his predecessor Barack Obama.
He said it was also a message to Assad and its allies Russia and Iran that “America is back.”
“I think that the chances for an attack initiated by either Syria or Hezbollah is even less today than before because now it’s understood that if they violate the interests of the United States of America… unlike the previous administration, this administration is ready to take action.”
© Agence France-Presse