Ya’alon says US, Russia respect Israeli self-defence as Syria ceasefire announced

Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon yesterday said that both the United States and Russia respect Israel’s freedom to act in self-defence in Syria. His comments came in the wake of a ceasefire announced by Washington and Moscow, which is set to begin on Saturday.

The truce was announced in a joint statement yesterday, which stated that there would be a cessation of hostilities by all sides who are party to the deal, including the Syrian government and US-backed opposition groups.  The statement urged other groups to “support the immediate cessation of violence and bloodshed in Syria.” Crucially though, the ceasefire will not be adhered to by ISIS, the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front and other terror groups. Nonetheless, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the “cessation will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also continue to expand the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian supplies … and support a political transition.”

Ya’alon though added a note of scepticism, saying, “It is difficult for me to see a ceasefire while Daesh [ISIS] and the al-Nusra Front are not part of the process and the Russians say they will strike both organisations.” Ya’alon was speaking while touring the American warship USS Carney, which is docked at Haifa Port as it is participating in a major joint Israel-US military exercise.

Accompanied by US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, Ya’alon also said that although, “We do not get involved in the conflicts in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen or other places,” Israeli action in Syria is “based on a single principle: self-defence.” This, said Ya’alon “is well-known in both the United States and Russia, which is currently acting in Syria,” and that both respect Israel’s “freedom to act and to defend our interests.” Israel is widely thought to have carried out air strikes on several occasions in Syria, in order to prevent the transfer of arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, for potential use against Israel. Hezbollah is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

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