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      U.S.: We Support Israel’s Ability to Defend Itself

      The United States reiterates that Israel has the right to defend itself, even if Russia sells advanced missiles to Syria.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 5/30/2013, 5:44 AM

      Syria border
      Syria border
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      The United States reiterated on Wednesday that Israel has the right to defend itself, even if Russia goes ahead with the sale of advanced missiles to Syria.

      “We support Israel’s ability to defend themselves, certainly, but we remain hopeful and remain committed to working towards a political transition,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday, when asked about comments made a day earlier by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

      Yaalon said that Israeli "will know what to do" if Russia delivers highly advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

      "The deliveries have not taken place – I can attest to this – and I hope they do not. But if, by some misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do," he said.

      Psaki said on Wednesday that Secretary of State John Kerry “has raised this issue with [Russia’s] Foreign Minister Lavrov in the past and has raised it publicly. The Russians have said this is delivering on past contracts.”

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Russian leader Vladimir Putin two weeks ago, in an effort to forestall the transfer of the missiles to Syria. He reportedly told Putin that the missiles could be used to threaten Israeli civilian air traffic, among other things.

      In recent days, there have been reports that the transfer of the advanced systems would not be carried out, but Russia denied those reports. Moscow said on Monday its plans to deliver to Damascus the S-300 missiles – designed to intercept aircraft or other missiles like Patriots NATO has already deployed on Turkey's border with Syria -- were part of existing contracts.

      Psaki also demanded the immediate withdrawal of Lebanese Hizbullah terrorists from Syria, saying their active role in combat there is an "extremely dangerous escalation."

      "This is an unacceptable and extremely dangerous escalation. We demand that Hezbollah withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately," she said.

      She condemned the "outrageous attack" on a Lebanese army checkpoint near the border on Tuesday that killed three soldiers.

      "These and other incidents are stark reminders that the conflict in Syria poses an incredibly dangerous threat to Lebanon's stability, the people of Lebanon and security," said Psaki.

      "We call on all parties to do their part to act with restraint and respect Lebanon's stability and security."