As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to deny corruption charges against him, on Sunday he accused Iran of planning attacks against the Jewish state. The premier, who was indicted on corruption charges on Thursday and is seen to be battling for his political life, said everything possible would be done to protect Israel’s national security on a visit to an army base near the border with conflict-ravaged Syria.
“Iran’s aggression in our region, and against us, continue,” Netanyahu said. He was speaking on the day US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in the country to meet his Israeli counterpart Aviv Kohavi.
The two generals discussed “operational questions and regional developments”, an army statement said. Speaking on the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, Netanyahu said “we are taking all necessary actions to prevent Iran from entrenching here in our region.”
“This includes the activity necessary to thwart the transfer of lethal weaponry from Iran to Syria, whether by air or overland. “We will also take action to thwart Iran’s effort to turn Iraq and Yemen into bases for launching rockets and missiles” at Israel, he added.
Last week, in a rare confirmation of such operations, Israel said its warplanes carried out a “very intense” attack against Iranian forces and Syrian army targets in Syria. Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people were killed in the strikes, 21 fighters, and two civilians.
The previous day, Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system had intercepted four rockets fired from Syria, with the army blaming an “Iranian force.” Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday he had charged Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, prompting speculation that the end of the premier’s decade-long tenure was nigh.
The indictment, which was the culmination of three years of inquiries, arrives at a desperately fraught time for Israel’s longest-serving leader who is scrambling to remain in power after failing to secure a clear win in two elections this year.
The three cases could land Netanyahu for up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
(With inputs from AFP)