December 29, 2018
US forces set up a base in Manbij, Syria, May 8, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
In an apparent bid to assuage Israeli concerns over President Donald Trump's surprise announcement last week of the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, the State Department issued a statement on Friday reiterating America's backing of the Jewish state in light of the threats it faces from Iran.
"The United States fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against Iranian regional actions that endanger Israeli national security and the safety of the Israeli people," Deputy State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said. "Iranian support of and supply to terrorist groups in Syria and across the region that have the clear intent and capability to strike Israel are unacceptable."
He continued: "The United States fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against the Iranian regime's aggressive adventurism, and we will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively. The commitment of the Trump administration and the American people to ensuring Israel's security is both enduring and unshakable."
Trump's Syria decision drew a lukewarm response from Israel, which keeps a close eye on the Iranian presence in its war-torn neighbor to the northeast.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the US military pullout from Syria would "not change anything."
"We are not prepared to accept the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria which is directed against us," Netanyahu remarked at a graduation ceremony for new Israeli Air Force pilots on Wednesday. "We will act against it vigorously and continuously, including during the current period."
"We're standing steadfast on our red lines in Syria and everywhere else," he emphasized.
The previous night, the Israeli Air Force reportedly struck several targets in Syria, including an Iranian Fajr-5 rocket storage facility.
The Israeli military is believed to have conducted numerous such operations in recent years to thwart the transfer of advanced Iranian weaponry to Hezbollah — the Lebanon-based Shi'a proxy of the Tehran regime that has sent fighters to Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad in the ongoing civil war there.