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Liberman on Syria: This is not the time to bark, but to bite

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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman holds a weapon during a visit to Sderot

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman holds a weapon during a visit to Sderot. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)

Israel “acted with determination” during Saturday’s military engagement with Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday.

“There are no restrictions, we do not accept any restrictions. We acted with determination and responded to every provocation. We will continue to defend our vital security interests. To paraphrase the well-known proverb, “This is not the time to bark, but to bite.” We are bitten hard, I hope we do not have to do it,” he said on a visit to the northern city of Kiryat Shmona.

On Saturday, an Iranian drone took off from Syria’s T4 airbase in the northern Homs province of Syria and flew through Jordanian territory before it infiltrated into Israel and flew for about a minute-and-a-half in the northern Jordan Valley before it was shot down. In retaliation for the incursion eight Israeli jets took off to strike the drone’s launch site. During the operation Syrian around 20 anti-aircraft missiles were fired at Israeli jets, bringing one of them down.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned of the growing entrenchment of Iran in Syria. Following the escalation in the north, the IDF accused Iran and the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards of operating at the T4 base for several months, backed by Syrian army forces and with the approval of the Syrian regime.

In November, Liberman asked for an increase of NIS 4.8 billion to the IDF’s budget, citing “significant” security changes that have dramatically changed Israel’s security situation, including precision weapons in the hands of groups like Hezbollah, as well as the dramatic acceleration of Iran’s military industry and the massive Russian presence in Syria.

Israel and Russia implemented a deconfliction mechanism system over Syria to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries and, according to Liberman, the deconfliction mechanism with Russia is “a connection that proves itself.”

“It is clear that each side has its own interests. Each side sees the picture differently. In the years of civil war in Syria, we were able to avoid direct friction, and that is an achievement in itself,” he said. “This is an effective relationship.”

The IDF believes that the next war on the northern border will not be contained to one front, but along the entire northern border with both Lebanon and Syria. The military also expects that during the next war with Hezbollah, the terror group will try to bring the fight to the home front by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

Kiryat Shmona, where Liberman visited on Tuesday is located about five kilometers south of the Lebanese border with Israel.

“I think we should note that after many years and after a considerable effort, I agreed with the finance minister to budget NIS 150 million, outside the total budget, on the issue of fortifying the home front here in the north, and this is certainly one of the issues that we are currently examining,” the defense minister said.

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