May 11, 2018 / 6:47 PM / 10 days ago

Israel to Assad: Get rid of your Iranian allies, they will harm you

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s Defence Minister warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday to renounce the Iranian military presence in his country, saying the activities of Assad’s staunchest regional ally would only cause “damage and problems”.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he speaks during the Herzliya Conference, in Herzliya, Israel, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

Speaking on a tour of the Golan Heights, the minister, Avigdor Lieberman, told Assad to beware especially of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the branch of its Revolutionary Guards that oversees operations outside Iran’s borders.

“I have a message for Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds force, they are not helping you, they are only harming.”

“Their presence will only cause problems and damage. Get rid of the Iranians and we can, perhaps, change our mode of life here,” he said.

On Thursday, Israel accused Iran of firing rockets from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the first time that Iran has attacked Israel with rockets.

Israel struck back with its heaviest air strikes in Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, saying it had attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure.

Editing by William Maclean and Kevin Liffey

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