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Bahrain FM defends Israel strikes on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon

Image of Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa on 17 April 2016 [U.S. Department of State/Flickr]
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa [U.S. Department of State/Wikipedia]

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa has defended Israel’s recent attacks on Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as “self-defence”, in yet another sign of normalising relations between the two states.

Israel has been linked to multiple attacks throughout the region in the past week, including an attack on the Iraq-Syria border, a compound in central Syria and a drone attack on Lebanese capital Beirut.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun yesterday called the strike on his capital a “declaration of war”, while Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi criticised Israel for what they called an “attack on Iraqi sovereignty”.

Appearing to respond to Aoun, Salih and Abdul Mahdi’s comments, Bahrain’s Al Khalifa wrote on Twitter:

“Iran is the one who has declared a war on us, with its Revolutionary Guards Corps, its Lebanese party [Hezbollah], its Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, its Houthi arm in Yemen and others. So one who strikes and destroys their piles of ammunition is not to blame. That is self-defense.”

Al Khalifa also tweeted a picture of Article 51, Chapter Seven in the United Nations Charter which “very clearly affirms the right of states to defend themselves against any threat or aggression.”

Al Khalifa’s comments will be seen as yet more evidence of Bahrain’s normalisation of relations with Israel.

READ: Bahrain urges Iran to stop maritime navigation threats

Last month Al Khalifa met Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz on the side-lines of the Advance Religious Freedom conference held in Washington DC, USA. A statement released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that the meeting – the first of its kind in public – was “coordinated behind the scenes by the US State Department”.

Katz posted a photo with Al-Khalifa on Twitter, claiming that he “met publicly with the foreign minister of Bahrain,” which he cited as “another example of our growing diplomatic connections”.

As a follow up to the meeting, Katz this month sent Eid greetings to his “friend” Al Khalifa, saying he “would like to wish you and the people of Bahrain a blessed Eid Al-Adha holiday.”

“I hope that the heritage of the sons of Abraham, which we share with you, will lead to peace and brotherhood between the two peoples [of Israel and Bahrain] and to cooperation between the two countries. I look forward to seeing you again soon,” Katz added.

READ: Bahrain king refuses offer to meet Israel’s Netanyahu

Regional tensions have soared in the past few days as a result of Israel’s repeated strikes on what it claims to be Iranian positions in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

This weekend Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) – an umbrella organisation of Shia paramilitary groups – blamed Israel for an attack on its base near the Syria-Iraq border. In a statement, the PFM said that unmanned aircraft had carried out two air strikes, one of which struck the headquarters of a local paramilitary brigade, while the other struck a convoy of cars leaving the building.

This came just days after US officials confirmed that Israel was behind several air strikes across Iraq, which saw three PMF bases and an Iraqi federal police compound targeted. Though the US initially denied any knowledge of or involvement in the strikes, a senior military intelligence official claimed the strikes were conducted from within Iraq, suggesting the US had allowed Israel to launch the attacks from its bases in the country.

READ: Netanyahu hints at Israeli involvement in Iraq blasts

On Saturday, Israel launched an air strike on what it claimed to be Iranian positions near Syrian capital Damascus. In a rare move, the Israeli army admitted conducting the strike, saying it had foiled a plan to launch several drones at northern Israel.

However, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp Major General Mohsen Rezaei denied Israel’s claim, saying: “This is a lie and not true. Israel and the United States do not have the power to attack Iran’s various centers, and our [military] advisory centers have not been harmed”.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, two Israeli drones crashed over the Moawwad neighbourhood in Beirut’s Dahieh quarter, with one exploding over the office of Hezbollah’s media centre. Three people were reported wounded.

Yesterday, in the second strike in as many days, Israel also hit a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) General Command in Beqaa Valley, in the east of the country. PFLP member Abu Ratib accused Israel of firing four missiles at the base in apparent attempt to assassinate Khalid Jibril, the son of the group’s leader Ahmed Jibril. The effort was seemingly unsuccessful.

The UN has called for “maximum restraint” in the wake of these attacks, while domestically Israel is gearing up for a potential escalation on “five fronts”, citing tensions in the three countries it ostensibly hit, as well as in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

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