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Israeli PM Says Iran Has Missile Building Sites in Syria, Lebanon | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on August 9. (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Monday that Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon to build missiles.

These missiles will ultimately be used to target Israel, he said during talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday on a three-day visit.

Netanyahu accused Iran of turning Syria into a “base of military entrenchment as part of its declared goal to eradicate Israel.”

“It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles towards that end, in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept,” added the Israeli premier.

Netanyahu offered no specifics to support his allegations.

Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has been Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest backer and has provided militia fighters to help him in Syria’s civil war.

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

Netanyahu recently accused Iran of building the production sites two weeks after an Israeli television report showed satellite images it said were of a facility Tehran was constructing in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets.

The Channel 2 News report said the images were of a site near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas and were taken by an Israeli satellite.

Israel has pointed to Tehran’s steadily increasing influence in the region during the six-year-old Syrian conflict, whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or Shi’ite Muslim proxies, especially the Lebanese group “Hezbollah”.

In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to act unilaterally to prevent an expanded Iranian military presence in Syria.

Russia, also an Assad ally, is seen as holding the balance of power in achieving a deal on Syria’s future. Israel fears an eventual Assad victory could leave Iran with a permanent garrison in Syria, extending a threat posed from neighboring Lebanon by “Hezbollah”.

In parallel to lobbying Moscow, Israel has been trying to persuade Washington that Iran and its guerrilla partners, not ISIS, pose the greater common threat in the region.

Guterres is meanwhile visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to discuss ways to revive the peace process.

The visit comes at a time of Israel-UN tensions.

Israel was angered by a resolution adopted by the UN’s cultural agency that it said diminishes Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu also criticized the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for being in its view soft on “Hezbollah” forces on its border.

Guterres vowed during his talks with the Israeli official that he will “do everything in my capacity” to ensure UNIFIL fulfills its obligations.

The UN peacekeeping force’s mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month and Israel is pressing for the force to have an increased presence to better monitor and prevent what Israel says is “Hezbollah” building up its weapons.

Guterres will meet Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday in the West Bank. He is due in Gaza on Wednesday.