JERUSALEM – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes. "The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation," Lieberman said on Israeli public radio. Israeli warplanes hit several targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement. Syria's military said it had downed one of the Israeli planes and hit another as they were carrying out the predawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadis this month. The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit.
JERUSALEM – Israel's defense minister announced his resignation on Friday, citing a lack of "trust" in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after reports in recent days that he is soon to be replaced. In a Facebook post, Moshe Yaalon said that he told Netanyahu that "following his conduct in recent developments and in light of the lack of trust in him, I am resigning from the government and the Knesset (Israel's parliament) and taking a time out from political life." Netanyahu and Yaalon have clashed in recent days over the role of the military in public discourse, with the prime minister arguing that military officials should not discuss policy matters publicly. Tensions between Yaalon and Netanyahu escalated in March, when military leaders criticized a soldier who was caught on video fatally shooting an already-wounded Palestinian attacker. The solider is now on trial for manslaughter.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's 2019 policy conference--the pro-Israel lobby's marquee annual event--sometimes felt defined by those who weren't in attendance as much as by those who were. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been due to address the conference in person on Tuesday morning but cut his visit to Washington short after a Hamas rocket attack injured seven people in central Israel, prompting Israeli retaliation against Gaza. Then there were the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination who chose not to attend, earning praise from the liberal group MoveOn, which had publicly called on them not to participate in a conference put on by an organization described as a "partisan lobbying group that has undermined diplomatic efforts" and given a platform to Islamophobes. These included Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar, who all have spoken at AIPAC in the past. Vice President Mike Pence called out the candidates in a combative speech for "boycotting this very conference."
BEIRUT - Israel fired missiles onto a Syrian military air base in the country's center late Sunday, killing a soldier and wounding two others hours after other Israeli attacks in southern Syria killed three soldiers and wounded seven, Syria's state-run media said. The new wave of Israeli missiles struck the T4 air base in the central province of Homs before midnight Sunday, according to state-run Syrian TV. There was no immediate comment from Israel about striking the air base, which opposition activists said includes positions also manned by Iranian troops and Iran-backed militiamen. Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified military official as saying that one soldier was killed and two were wounded in the air base attack and that an arms depot was hit as well. Israel has attacked the T4 base in the past.