Netanyahu warns over Iran after Syria strikes


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday over Iran's presence in Syria after Western strikes in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons and a recent attack attributed to Israel.
Netanyahu also called on Western powers to take the same approach toward preventing "terrorist states" from acquiring nuclear weapons, referring to Israel's main enemy Iran.
The premier said he spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday night following the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain in neighbouring Syria.
The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation on Saturday took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities. Netanyahu had previously expressed his "total support" for the strikes.
"The important international message that came from the attack was zero tolerance for the use of non-conventional weapons," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting, describing his discussion with May.
"I added that this policy needs to also be expressed in preventing terrorist states and groups from having nuclear abilities."
Netanyahu also again warned over Iran's presence in Syria after previously pledging not to allow the country to entrench itself militarily next door.
On April 9, seven Iranian personnel were among 14 people killed in an early-morning strike on the T-4 airbase in Syria, with regime allies Iran and Russia blaming Israel for the attack.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.
Netanyahu said he told May that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "must understand that when he allows Iran and its proxies to establish a military presence in his country, he endangers Syria as well as the stability of the region".
Also on Sunday, two Israeli ministers said their country would continue to act to prevent Iran from establishing itself militarily in Syria.
Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in Syria's civil war, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, another of its enemies.
Hezbollah, like Iran and Russia, is backing Assad in the war.
Israel will release about 200 jailed African migrants in the absence of a final deal to deport them and thousands more Eritrean and Sudanese men who entered the country illegally, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.
The government has been trying to finalise an agreement with Uganda to take in the migrants, who came into Israel on foot through the Egyptian border over the past decade.
Most of the 200 men set for release were sent to a desert prison in recent months to await deportation to Uganda.
But with negotiations continuing over a deal with Uganda, Israel’s Interior Ministry — which has faced court challenges by rights groups over the detentions — issued a statement on Sunday saying it would begin releasing the migrants.
The Israeli government says the 37,000 migrants in Israel are job seekers and that it has every right to protect its borders. The migrants and rights groups say they are seeking asylum and are fleeing war and persecution.
About 4,000 migrants have left Israel for Rwanda and Uganda since 2013 under a voluntary programme, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under pressure from his right-wing voter base to expel thousands more.
On Friday Uganda acknowledged for the first time that it was in talks to take in some 500 migrants, though it said it would only accept people who left voluntarily and not by forced deportation.
Israel started handing out notices to male migrants from Eritrea and Sudan in January, giving them three months to take the voluntary deal with a plane ticket and $3,500 or risk being thrown in jail until they are deported.
Israel’s Supreme Court, however, has issued temporary injunctions to give more time for petitioners to argue against the plan.
On Tuesday government representatives told the court that an envoy was in an African country finalising a deportation deal after an arrangement with Rwanda fell through.
Official documents submitted to the court said authorities have identified close to 8,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants it would potentially deport under compulsory expulsion.