Bennett: Those who act against us pay a price

Minister, member of Political Security Cabinet hints Russia cannot be relied upon in Syria. 'We'll protect ourselves with our own forces.'

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Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Eliran Aharon

Minister of Education and member of the Political Security Cabinet Naftali Bennett said this morning, Sunday, that Israel intends to cause as much damage as it can to Iranian forces in Syria if attacked.

Early Saturday morning, an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace from Syria, remaining in Israel some 90 seconds before the IAF shot it down. In response to the provocation, Israel attacked the drone's command center. During the IAF operation, Syrian surface-to-air missiles downed an Israeli F-16I fighter jet, injuring two pilots who were evacuated to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

"We decided to hit the head of the octopus, and this symmetry will make it clear that there is a price to those who act against us," Bennett said in an interview on Reshet Bet.

He noted that Israel will not tolerate any provocation. "We will not restrain ourselves over violations of our sovereignty. We maintain our right to act where we need to defend ourselves. We will not wait for our enemy to reach the fence to repel it. We are preventing Iran from establishing itself in Syria."

He added that "It cannot be that they are immune, even as they spill our blood. This symmetry will make it clear that there is a price to those who act against us. Khamenei is happy to fight against us to the last drop of blood from the Gazans, but he is very stressed when Iranian blood is spilled."

The minister said that significant activity now could deter and cause the other side to think before another attack: "The way to maintain stability and ensure quiet is to act and prevent this foothold when it is small. This consistency will lead to continued quiet, while hiding our heads in the sand will allow them to continue to gain foothold.”

When asked about Russia's conduct in the incident, Minister Bennett hinted that the Russians could not be relied upon. "I think we'll continue to protect ourselves with our own forces.”

Following the Israeli airstrikes in Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "concern" over an "escalation in tension."

“Of particular concern is the danger of escalation of tension within and around de-escalation zones in Syria, the creation of which has become an important factor in reducing violence on Syrian soil."

“We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation.

"We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” the Russian ministry said.

Russian forces have been intervening in Syria on behalf of Assad since 2015. Israel and Russia have a joint mechanism to coordinate military operations in Syria, and in particular concerning the use of Syrian airspace. The mechanism was agreed upon during a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Putin in 2015.

According to Reuters, following the incident, Netanyahu said that he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that they had agreed that Israel-Russia military coordination over Syria would continue.