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After Damascus raid, Israel says working to keep weapons from foes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-R) attends the weekly cabinet meeting with Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (L) Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Yuval Steinitz (2nd-L), Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz (C-L) and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman (R) at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, on September 16, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Sebastian Scheiner

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday his country is taking action to stop its foes from acquiring sophisticated arms, hours after Damascus said Israeli missiles targeted its airport.

Israel has not officially confirmed or denied a report by Syrian state news agency SANA of an attack late Saturday on Damascus international airport.

“Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying at the start of his cabinet’s weekly meeting.

“Our red lines are as sharp as ever and our determination to enforce them is stronger than ever.”

SANA quoted a Syrian military source as saying that air defences “shot down a number of hostile missiles” during the attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the strikes hit a weapons depot outside the airport.

Israel has vowed to prevent its arch-foe Iran, which is a main backer of the Damascus government, from gaining a military foothold in neighbouring war-torn Syria.

Earlier this month, Israel acknowledged having carried out more than 200 strikes in Syria over the past 18 months, mainly against Iranian targets.

It has also admitted to striking Syria to prevent what it says are deliveries of advanced weaponry to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an armed movement backed by Iran and which fights alongside Syrian troops.

The last reported Israeli strikes on Syria took place on September 4, when Syrian state media said the military’s air defences downed several missiles in the coastal province of Tartus and in central Hama.

Netanyahu was speaking two days before the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and the anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war.

The 1973 conflict started with a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria that Israel was only able to defeat after setbacks that caused severe losses.

“Forty-five years ago, intelligence erred by holding to a mistaken assessment regarding the war intentions of Egypt and Syria,” he said.

“When these intentions became clear beyond all doubt, and when the danger was on our very doorstep, the political leadership made a grievous mistake by not allowing a pre-emptive strike. We will never repeat this mistake.”

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, but the Jewish state and Syria are still officially in a state of war.

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