US Fears Israel Will Be Drawn into Iraq-Syria War
June 30, 2014
Roi Kais / Ynet News & Yifa Yaakov / The Times of Israel
Washington says it fears the jihadist group, that has seized control of parts of Iraq, Syria, will try to invade Jordan. Israeli diplomats say country prepared to take military action to save Jordan's Hashemite Kingdom. Israel fighter jets have already violated Syria's borders on bombing runs on several occasions. The latest raid, on June 23, targeted a civilian vehicle and killed four passengers, including a 14-year-old boy.
Report: US Fears Israel Would Be
Dragged into War with ISIS
Roi Kais / Ynet News
TEL AVIV (June 28, 2014) -- The Obama administration has voiced concern that Israel and the United States may be dragged into a war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the extremist Sunni organization that is threatening to transform Iraq and other countries into Islamist territories, the Daily Beast reported.
According to the website, senior Obama administration officials told senators in a briefing last week that while ISIS has already seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, the jihadist group is now eying westward territories -- including Jordan.
ISIS's attack on Jordan can only further complicate the already complex conflict, the officials said in the briefing, according to the Daily Beast. They believe that if the Jordanians feel threatened by ISIS, they will attempt to recruit Israel and the United States for an all-inclusive war that is coming into being in the Middle East.
"The concern was that Jordan could not repel a full assault from ISIS on its own at this point," said one senator, the report quoted one senator as saying.
According to another source that was present at the briefing, the American officials responded to the question of how Jordan's leaders would act in the case of an attack by ISIS by saying: "They will ask Israel and the United States for as much help as they can get."
The United States has already begun to intervene in the crisis in Iraq, and on Friday confirmed that it has started flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect US interests in the Iraqi capital.
In this way, the US is essentially cooperating with Iran, which is also trying to help the central authorities in Iraq in their battle against the Sunni jihadists. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advised US President Barack Obama not to make any promises to Iran in the nuclear talks, as part of the same cooperation in Iraq.
However, the Daily Beast article states that Israeli diplomats told their American counterparts that Israel would be willing to take military action to save the Hashemite Kingdom.
Earlier this week, a Jordanian official told Ynet that in the backdrop of ISIS's success in Iraq and its actions on the border with Jordan, "There is a very good cooperation between us regarding ISIS's growing presence in Iraq and Syria, but also on issues relating to other radical forces in the Middle East which have their sights set on Israel and Jordan."
Daoud further added that "we have taken all the precautionary measures. So far, we have not detected any abnormal movement. However, if anything threatens our security or gets near our borders it will face the full strength of our Jordanian Armed Forces." Earlier this week, as part of the same precautionary approach, Jordan closed a central border crossing with Iraq.
Jordanian Protestors Raise al-Qaeda flags
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting in Jordan. ISIS supporters raised black flags and rallied in the southern city of Ma'an in two different demonstrations last week. During the protests, which saw support for the Jihadist organization for the first time in Jordan, demonstrators shouted slogans against King Abdullah.
"We don't believe in the government anymore, and are seeking for an alternative that will grant us our basic rights," said one of the protestors at the rally, adding that "we found that alternative in an Islamic State."
Muhammad Abu Salah, a local political leader in Ma'an that helped organizing protests against the government, explained the background to the protests. "The city was neglected. The only service we receive is the police. No jobs, no development, no respect."
Countries east of Israel are not the only ones threatened by ISIS. The Al-Masry Al-Youm Egyptian newspaper cited on Friday night a security official in northern Sinai who said that Egyptian security forces arrested 15 suspects affiliated with ISIS when they attempted to infiltrate Sinai from the Gaza Strip through tunnels in Rafah.
According to the security official, terrorists organizations based in Gaza paved the militants' way to Gaza through one of the tunnels.
He claimed the terrorists were arrested by special forces and commando forces immediately upon their entry to Sinai. The detainees told interrogators that they had attempted to deliver a message to terrorist organizations in Egypt in order to establish a branch of ISIS in the country.
The suspects further stated that they were supposed to oversee the groups that were to be founded. So far, an official confirmation on the report from Egypt's army has yet to be received.
Since ISIS began their conquest of Iraq two weeks ago, the Sunni jihadists carried out hundreds of executions of Iraqi soldiers Shi'ite soldiers in Iraq's army. The Jihadists consider the Shiites heretics.
The US-based rights group said militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Shams killed between 160 and 190 men in two locations in Tikrit between June 11 and June 14.
"The number of victims may well be much higher, but the difficulty of locating bodies and accessing the area has prevented a full investigation," it said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
US: Jordan May Ask Israel
To Go to War against ISIL
Yifa Yaakov / The Times of Israel
(June 28, 2014) -- Jordan may ask Israel and the United States to help it fight the al-Qaeda-linked jihadi group that threatens Syria and Iraq if it threatens Amman as well, senior Obama administration officials said.
According to a Friday report by The Daily Beast, the officials told senators in a classified briefing earlier this week that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is eyeing Jordan as well as its war-torn neighbors, and that some of its jihadists have already tweeted out photos and messages saying they have seized a key Jordanian town.
The Daily Beast quoted one of the Senate staff members who attended the briefing as saying that, according to the administration officials, if Jordan were to face a military onslaught from ISIL, it would "ask Israel and the United States for as much help as they can get."
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.
Another senator said the main "concern" voiced during the briefing was that "Jordan could not repel a full assault from ISIL on its own at this point."
On Thursday, the US met with its top Sunni state allies in the Mideast to consider how to confront the region's growing turmoil that has been spawned by a Sunni Muslim insurgency group.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant reaches beyond the two countries -- Iraq and Syria -- where it is currently based.
"The move of ISIL concerns every single country here," Kerry said at the start of the meeting held at the US ambassador's residence in Paris.
If Israel were to join regional efforts to fight ISIL, it would effectively be joining forces with the likes of Iran and Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been fighting together in Syria and Iraq to overpower the jihadi group.
However, according to The Daily Beast, Israel has indicated behind the scenes that it would be willing to give military assistance to its ally Jordan, with which it signed a peace treaty in 1994.
"I think Israel and the United States would identify a substantial threat to Jordan as a threat to themselves and would offer all appropriate assets to the Jordanians," the media outlet quoted Thomas Sanderson, the co-director for transnational threats at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying.
In Washington, Jordanian embassy spokeswoman Dana Daoud sounded more optimistic regarding her country's ability to face the jihadi threat.
"We are in full control of our borders and our Jordanian Armed Forces are being very vigilant. We have taken all the precautionary measures. So far, we have not detected any abnormal movement. however, if anything threatens our security or gets near our borders it will face the full strength of our Jordanian Armed Forces," Daoud reportedly said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is a co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Jordan Caucus, told The Daily Beast that the Jordanian army was "more than a match" for ISIL.
"I don't think there is any sense that the rank and file Jordanian forces will melt away the way the Iraqis did," he said.
Since its formation in April 2013 out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIL has become one of the main forces fighting against Assad in Syria and gaining military control of parts of Iraq. Emboldened by these victories, the burgeoning jihadi group may set its sights on Jordan next.
Mainstream Syrian rebels and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front accuse the jihadists of ISIL of responsibility for a string of atrocities.
On Friday, a watchdog and jihadist sites said it had executed and crucified one of its own men for corruption in Syria.
Photographs posted on websites showed the body and bloodied head of a bearded man with a placard reading: "Guilty: Abu Adnan al-Anadali. Sentence: execution and three days of crucifixion. Motive: extorting money at checkpoints by accusing drivers of apostasy."
For Israel, an ISIL assault on Jordan would mean it faces a jihadi threat on two fronts. On Friday, a senior Israeli military commander announced that almost the entire Syrian side of the Golan Heights is now under the control of rebel forces, including radical Islamist groups.
The Israeli officer said that the dramatic gains made by the rebel forces in the area appeared to explain why Syrian troops fired a missile on Sunday that killed a 15-year-old boy on the Israeli side of the border, mistaking an Israeli civilian vehicle for a rebel truck.
The Golan Heights is a strategic plateau on the Israeli-Syrian border. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 war, having been attacked from the Golan over the previous 20 years, and extended Israeli law to the area in 1981.
Unsuccessful peace efforts over the years have seen Israel ready to trade most of the Golan for a permanent accord with Damascus, but the notion of Israeli-Syrian peace has all but disappeared as Syria collapsed into anarchy over the past three years of civil war.
Times of Israel staff, AP and AFP contributed to this report.
Syria: 4 Killed, 9 Wounded in Israeli Airstrikes
JERUSALEM (June 23, 2014) -- The Syrian government said Monday a series of Israeli airstrikes targeting its troops in retaliation for a deadly cross-border attack killed four people and wounded nine others, in its first comment on the overnight incident.
It said the attack was a "flagrant violation" of Syrian sovereignty, but in a departure from previous incidents when Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria, the government did not vow retaliation.
Israel's prime minister on Monday warned the warring parties in Syria against any attempt to heat up tensions along the disputed frontier, hours after the Israeli air force carried out a string of airstrikes in Syria in response to the attack, which killed an Israeli teenager riding in a civilian vehicle.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond with even tougher force if there are any further attacks. "Last night we operated with great force against Syrian targets that acted against us, and if needed we will use additional force," he told members of his Likud Party. "We will continue to forcefully hurt anyone who attacks us or tries to attack us." The Israeli military said the air raids struck nine targets in neighboring Syria.
A statement issued by Syria's Foreign Ministry said five Israeli warplanes carried out the raids, which were accompanied by mortar rounds and tank shells. It said four people were killed and nine others wounded, adding that the attacks caused extensive damage to Syrian army positions and equipment. It did not provide further details.
The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said the Israeli strikes destroyed two tanks, two artillery batteries and the headquarters of Syria's 90th brigade. The Observatory collects its information through a network of activists inside Syria.
The Israeli military said "direct hits were confirmed" on the targets, which were located near the site of Sunday's violence in the Golan Heights and included a regional military command center and unspecified "launching positions."
Israel has kept a close eye on the Syrian uprising since it began in March 2011, although it has avoided backing either side. On several occasions, artillery rounds have landed on the Israeli side of the de facto border, drawing limited Israeli reprisals.
Israel also has carried out several airstrikes in Syria over the past three years, primarily targeting suspected weapons shipments allegedly destined for Hezbollah militants in neighboring Lebanon. In each of the cases, the Syrian government vowed retaliation, but refrained from taking any action.
The latest air raids, however, came after an Israeli civilian vehicle was struck by what the Israeli military said was a Kornet anti-tank missile fired from the Syrian side of the border as it drove in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
A teenage Israeli boy was killed and two other people were wounded in what was the first deadly incident along the volatile Israeli-Syrian frontier since the start of the Syrian civil war. It was not clear whether the attack was by government troops or rebels. But Israeli officials said suspicion was focused on Syria or its Hezbollah allies, since both are known to possess Kornet missiles.
Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Its subsequent annexation of the area has never been recognized internationally. Israel has repeatedly said it holds the Syrian government responsible for any attacks emanating from its territory, regardless of who actually carries them out.
Israeli security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media, said they did not expect the situation to escalate immediately but that it remains tense. Much would depend on Syria's response to the Israeli airstrikes, they said.
Defense officials have feared that Hezbollah or some other militant group might try to open a new front with Israel at a time when the army is carrying out a broad operation in the West Bank. Thousands of troops have been searching for three teenagers who disappeared on June 12 and are believed to have been kidnapped by Palestinian militants.
Sunday's incident occurred in the area of Tel Hazeka, near the Quneitra crossing. The Observatory said Syrian troops had shelled nearby targets on the Syrian border earlier in the day. Israeli police identified the boy as Mohammed Krakra, 14, of the Arab village of Arabeh in northern Israel. Local media said he had accompanied his father, the truck driver, to work.
Israel Strikes Syria, Says Targeting Hezbollah Arms
Dominic Evans and Oliver Holmes / Reuters
BEIRUT (May 5, 2013) -- Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah.
As Syria's two-year-old civil war veered into the potentially atomic arena of Iran's confrontation with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, people were woken in the Syrian capital by explosions that shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky.
"Night turned into day," one man told Reuters from his home at Hameh, near one of the targets, the Jamraya military base.
But for all the angry rhetoric in response from Tehran and from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it was unclear whether the second such raid in 48 hours would elicit any greater reaction than an Israeli attack in the same area in January, which was followed by little evident change.
The Syrian government accused Israel of effectively helping al Qaeda Islamist "terrorists" and said the strikes "open the door to all possibilities"; but Israeli officials said that, as in January, they were calculating Assad would not pick a fight with a well-armed neighbor while facing defeat at home.
Denying it was weighing in on the rebel side on behalf of Washington - which opposes Assad but is hesitating to intervene - officials said Israel was pursuing its own conflict, not with Syria but with Iran, and was acting to prevent Iran's Hezbollah allies receiving missiles that might strike Tel Aviv if Israel made good on threats to attack Tehran's nuclear program.
What Israel was not doing, they stressed, was getting drawn into a debate that has raged in the United States lately of whether the alleged use of poison gas by Assad's forces should prompt the West finally to give military backing to oust him.
Israel was not taking sides in a civil war that has pitted Assad's government, a dour but mostly toothless adversary for nearly 40 years, against Sunni rebels, some of them Islamist radicals, who might one day turn Syria's armory against the Jewish state.
It is a mark of how two years of killing in which at least 70,000 Syrians have died has not only inflamed a wider, regional confrontation between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Arabs, some of them close Western allies, but have also left Israel and Western powers scrambling to reassess where their interests lie.
Egypt, the most populous Arab state and flagship of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts where elected Islamists have replaced a Western-backed autocrat, has no love for Assad. But on Sunday it condemned Israel's air strikes as a breach of international law that "made the situation more complicated".
Israel does not confirm such missions explicitly - a policy it says is intended to avoid provoking reprisals. But an Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the strikes were carried out by its forces, as was a raid early on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama said had been justified.
A Western intelligence source told Reuters: "In last night's attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his aim for Israel was to "guarantee its future" - language he has used to warn of a willingness to attack Iran's nuclear sites, even in defiance of U.S. advice, as well as to deny Hezbollah heavier weapons.
He later flew to China on a scheduled trip, projecting confidence there would be no major escalation - though Israel has reinforced its anti-missile batteries in the north.
Syrian state television said bombing at a military research facility at Jamraya and two other sites caused "many civilian casualties and widespread damage", but it gave no details. The Jamraya compound was also a target for Israel on January 30.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television showed a flattened building spread over the size of a football pitch, with smoke rising from rubble containing shell fragments. It did not identify it.
Syrian state television quoted a letter from the foreign minister to the United Nations saying: "The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory."
Obama defended Israel's right to block "terrorist organizations like Hezbollah" from acquiring weapons after Friday's raid, and a White House spokesman said on Sunday: "The president many times has talked about his view that Israel, as a sovereign government, has the right to take the actions they feel are necessary to protect their people."
It was unclear that Israel had sought U.S. approval for the strikes, although the White House spokesman said: "The close coordination between the Obama administration, the United States of America, is ongoing with the Israeli government."
Obama has in recent years worked to hold back Netanyahu from making good on threats to hit facilities where he says Iran, despite its denials, is working to develop a nuclear weapon.
On Sunday, some Israeli officials highlighted Obama's reluctance to be drawn into new conflict in the Middle East to explain Israel's need for independent action.
Syria restricts access to independent journalists. Its state media said Israeli aircraft struck three places between Damascus and the nearby Lebanese border. The city also lies barely 50 km (30 miles) from Israeli positions on the occupied Golan Heights.
Tehran, which has long backed Assad, whose Alawite minority has religious ties to Shi'ite Islam, denied the attack was on armaments for Lebanon and called for nations to stand firm against Israel. A senior Iranian commander was quoted, however, as saying Syria's armed forces were able to defend themselves without their allies, though Iran could help them with training.
Hezbollah, a Shi'ite movement that says it is defending Lebanon from Israeli aggression, declined immediate comment.
Analysts say the Fateh-110 could put the Tel Aviv metropolis in range of Hezbollah gunners, 100 km (60 miles) to the north, bolstering the arsenal of a group that fired some 4,000 shorter-range rockets into Israel during a month-long war in 2006.
"What we want is to ensure that inside the Syrian chaos we will not see Hezbollah growing stronger," Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Army Radio.
"The world is helplessly looking on at events in Syria, the Americans in particular, and this president in particular," he added of Obama. "He has left Iraq, Afghanistan and has no interest in sending ground troops to Syria ... That is why, as in the past, we are left with our own interests, protecting them with determination and without getting too involved."
Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by Syrian activists showed a series of blasts. One lit up the skyline of Damascus, while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.
Syrian state news agency SANA said Israeli aircraft struck in three places: northeast of Jamraya; the town of Maysaloun on the Lebanese border; and the nearby Dimas air base.
"The sky was red all night," one man said from Hameh, near Jamraya. "We didn't sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night."
Central Damascus was quiet on the first day of the working week, and government checkpoints seemed reinforced. Some opposition activists said they were glad strikes might weaken Assad, even if few Syrians have any liking for Israel: "We don't care who did it," Rania al-Midania said in the capital. "We care that those weapons are no longer there to kill us."
(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Marwan Makdesi in Damascus, Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams, Jeffrey Heller and Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Roberta Rampton Aboard Air Force One and Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Alastair Macdonald.)
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