Mattis: Israel-Iran confrontation increasingly likely
U.S. Defense Secretary says a military confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria is becoming increasing likely.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis warned on Thursday that a military confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria is becoming increasing likely.
Speaking at a hearing in Congress, Mattis was asked if Israel and Iran were edging toward military confrontation and replied, according to The National, “I can see how it might start, but I am not sure when or where.”
“I think that it’s very likely in Syria because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah,” said Mattis, who accused Iran of not only expanding and strengthening its presence in Syria but also “bringing advanced weapons for Hezbollah through Syria”.
Israel, he said, “will not wait to see those missiles in the air and we hope Iran would pull back.”
Tensions between Israel and Iran have been high in recent months. In February, an Iranian drone armed with explosives infiltrated Israel.
The drone, which entered Israeli airspace from Syria, remained in Israel for 1.5 minutes before the IAF shot it down.
Responding to the infiltration, Israel attacked the drone’s command center. During the IAF operation, Syrian surface-to-air missiles downed an Israeli F-16I fighter jet.
Earlier this month, an air strike hit the T-4 airbase in Homs, Syria, killing several Iranian soldiers and officers.
Russia, Iran and Syria have all accused Israel of carrying out the Homs strike. Israeli leaders have not publicly said that Israel was responsible for the strike. Prime MInister Binyamin Netanyahu alluded to Israel’s role, saying it reserved the right to use preemptive strikes against threats to its security.
A report last week said the attack targeted an advanced Iranian air-defense system and took place with tacit American support.
Iran has threatened to attack Israel in response to the air strike.
Earlier on Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned of a possible confrontation with Iran.
In an interview with the London-based Saudi newspaper Elaph, Liberman said that, while Israel is not interested in war with anybody, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria “at any price.”
“These are the final days of the Iranian regime,” Liberman warned, emphasizing that “if Iran attacks Tel Aviv, Israel will strike Tehran and destroy every Iranian military site that threatens Israel in Syria, whatever the price.”