Iraqi militia leader hails downing Israeli warplane
An Iraqi Shiite militia leader who made a controversial appearance on the Israeli-Lebanese border in December has welcomed the shooting down of the Israeli fighter jet by the Syrian regime on Saturday, calling it a “great change” in the balance of power.
“Downing [the] Israeli warplanes means a great change in the equations of power,” Qais al-Khazali, head of the Iranian-funded Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, said in a tweet on Saturday evening.
“It also means that the Israeli enemy is threatened with losing the only remaining power card it has,” the Iraqi leader said in reference to the Israeli air capabilities.
In the video shared by his militia, Khazali stated in December that he was on the border of Lebanon and occupied Palestine. “We are completely prepared for unity with the Lebanese nation and the question of Palestine against the invading, oppressive and anti-Islamic Israel,” he said.
His border appearance, facilitated by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, received criticism from the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri then.
Hezbollah, whose forces have been supporting the Syrian regime since the start of the civil war in 2011, have made a similar statement.
“Today’s developments mean the old equations have categorically ended,” the Lebanese Shiite militia said, Reuters reported.
Israeli officials confirmed that an F-16 fighter jet was shot down following an air offensive against “Iranian targets,” inside Syria, claiming that an Iranian drone earlier in the day had entered Israeli air space coming from the Syrian territory. Iran denied the Israeli accusation, but welcomed the Syrian right to self-defence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday said that their warning against Iranian plans in Syria was proven right “100% correct.”
“Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel,” Netanyahu said in a video message.
“Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security,” PM Netanyahu continued.