Israel launches surprise military exercises near Syria

Israel’s army has launched a surprise military exercise in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the Syrian borders amid rising tensions in the region following several Israeli airstrikes on Syria.

The Israeli military said it kicked off the military drill in the occupied territories on Sunday with the aim of maintaining combat readiness.

According to the statement, the exercise is part of the 2018 training program, and will span several days.

The army noted that there would be increased vehicular activity and explosions would be heard, adding reserve forces were also called up.

Israel seized the Golan Heights after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move not recognized by the international community. The regime has built dozens of illegal settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

Tensions have heightened in the Golan Heights in the wake of several Israeli air raids on Syria. Damascus says the strikes are meant to provide support to Takfiri militants fighting against government forces.

The Syrian army has on several occasions seized huge quantities of Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting against government forces. There are also reports that Tel Aviv has been treating extremists wounded in Syria at its medical centers and hospitals.

The drill began as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told European leaders that Tel Aviv would “take strong action against attempts to establish a presence against us, and also against attacks on us.”

Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said he focused on Iran’s alleged “efforts to establish a military presence in Syria” during his four-day European tour where he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Iran offers Syria advisory military support in its fight against terrorism and denies having any combat role in the conflict.

Israeli-Arab ties improving ‘beyond imagination’

Netanyahu also said Tel Aviv’s relations with Arab states were “improving beyond imagination,” claiming that “this will ultimately help achieve peace without Palestinians neighbors.”

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