April 14, 2018 / 5:20 AM / 6 months ago

Netanyahu praises U.S. strikes in Syria, warns about Iran

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coupled praise for U.S.-led strikes on Syrian targets on Saturday with a warning that Iran’s presence there further endangers Syria.

U.S., British and French forces hit Syria with air strikes overnight in response to an alleged poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last week. U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until Assad’s government stopped its use of chemical weapons.

“Early this morning, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom demonstrated that their commitment is not limited to proclamations of principle,” Netanyahu said in a written statement.

Netanyahu said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must understand that “his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endangers Syria”.

An Israeli official said Israel was notified of the strikes ahead of time. Asked how much warning Israel had received, the official told Reuters: “Between 12 and 24 hours, I believe.”

Asked whether Israel helped choose targets, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Not to my knowledge.”

A U.S. embassy spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that Israel had been notified before the strikes, but she provided no further details.

Iran’s involvement in Syria in support of Assad has alarmed Israel, which has said it will counter any threat. The armed Iranian-backed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, which has an extensive missile arsenal, last fought a war with Israel in 2006.

Syria, Iran and Russia say Israel was behind an air strike on a Syrian air base on Monday that killed seven Iranian military personnel, something Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Netanyahu and urged him to do nothing to destabilise Syria, according to a Kremlin statement.

Netanyahu said Israel would not allow Iran to establish itself in Syria, according to his office.

Israel has mounted air strikes in Syria on a regular basis, targeting suspected weapons shipments to Lebanese Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool/File Photo

Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Kevin Liffey

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