Israel not bound by US-Russian ceasefire deal in Syria: Liberman

Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:39AM
Israeli soldiers gather next to their tanks near the Syrian border in the occupied Golan Heights, November 28, 2016. (Photo by AP)
Israeli soldiers gather next to their tanks near the Syrian border in the occupied Golan Heights, November 28, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Israel has refused to abide by a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia which went into force in southwestern Syria on Sunday, saying it would act to protect its interests.

“Israel reserves its complete freedom of action, regardless of any understandings or developments,” minister of military affairs Avigdor Liberman said on Sunday.

Russia, the US and Jordan have agreed to back a ceasefire in southwestern Syria and to establish a de-escalation zone in Syrian provinces of Dara’a, Suwayda and Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The truce came into force at noon Damascus time (0900 GMT) on Sunday.

The trilateral agreement on cessation of hostilities was announced on Friday after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the German city of Hamburg.

Liberman said Tel Aviv is mulling the understandings reached between Trump and Putin regarding the truce.

Israel has cited errant fire to launch several attacks on the Syrian territory, targeting civilians and military positions. Many observers believe militants backed by Israel are behind the fire, giving a pretext to Tel Aviv to attack Syrian military positions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the ceasefire on Sunday, saying Israel will carefully monitor the developments in Syria, “while strongly upholding our red lines.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem al-Quds on June 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

He cited alleged fears of Iranian or Hezbollah presence in Syria, particularly in the Golan Heights. Netanyahu said the truce must not “enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular.”

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says Tel Aviv and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri militant groups wreaking havoc in the country.

Israel regularly hits positions held by the Syrian army in the Golan Heights, describing the attacks as retaliatory. Syria says the raids aim to help Takfiri militants fighting against government forces.

On several occasions, the Syrian army has confiscated Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting the government forces. There are also reports that Israel has been providing medical treatment to the extremists wounded in Syria.

Last month, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed concerns about a spike in contacts between Israeli armed forces and Syria militants in recent months, saying it could lead to escalation and cause harm to UN observers deployed to the Golan Heights.

The Wall Street Journal recently said Israel has been providing Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s Golan Heights with a steady flow of funds and medical supplies.

Sen. Schumer Attacks Trump for ‘Not Honoring the Six Million Jews Murdered by the Nazis’


Two weeks on, criticism of the White House’s controversial Holocaust Remembrance Day statement continues to grow.


Two weeks after the White House issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that omitted any reference to the Jewish people or anti-Semitism, the controversy around it continues to grow. On Tuesday, the debate over this unusual omission reached Capitol Hill, where House Republicans blocked an attempt by the Democrats to vote on a resolution that would have acknowledged the Nazi targeting of Jews during the Holocaust and called on the White House to do the same.

Despite the fact that almost every major Jewish organizations in the United States denounced the Trump administration’s statement – including the Republican Jewish Coalition and the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, both of which supported Trump during the last elections – the White House has thus far refused to apologize for the omission, instead insisting that there was some logic behind its issue since not only Jews died during the Holocaust.

The White House’s decision to double down on the statement has turned it from a news story that might have lasted a day or two into a constant line of attack by Democrats in Congress. Over the weekend, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, told Haaretz that the Trump White House was “in the camp of holocaust denial” and that there were “anti-Semitic themes” in the statements and explanations coming from the administration.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined the critics and accused the Trump White House of not honoring the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. “The abominable Nazi ‘Final Solution’ had as its target the extermination of the Jewish people. This is a fact. And one that must always be remembered,” Schumer told Haaretz. “It is troubling and unfortunate,” he added, “that the administration did not acknowledge and honor the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime in the Shoah.”

Schumer is a descendant of Holocaust survivors. His great-grandmother and seven of her nine children were murdered by the Nazis. This family history was brought up by a number of news outlets last week, after Trump mocked Schumer for appearing emotional and on the verge of tears during a press conference in which he attacked the President for his executive order on immigration. Schumer called Trump’s executive order “mean-spirited and un-American” during the press conference. The President, in return, ridiculed Schumer on Twitter by calling him “Fake Tears Chuck.”

A day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Sen. Schumer participated in the #WeRemember campaign, which called on social media users around the world to photograph themselves with signs using those two words. The campaign was organized by the World Jewish Congress, whose president, Ronald Lauder, was the only leader of a major Jewish organization to defend Trump’s controversial statement. Lauder, who is considered close both to Trump and to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, explained that “any fair reading of the White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history.” No other Jewish organization, however, has joined Lauder’s position.

Democrats on Capitol Hill plan to continue raising this issue so long as the White House doesn’t change course and admit that it made a mistake by omitting the Jews from the original statement – something that seems less and less likely following the latest developments. “This is going to continue gaining attention, mainly because of how terribly it’s been handled by the White House,” one Democratic staffer told Haaretz on Wednesday. “When you add this controversy to the anti-Semitic quotes by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon that are resurfacing, you realize this is something that’s going to keep haunting them for a long time.”

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