Tillerson not planning to stop in Israel during Mideast tour

Secretary of State keeping tabs on situation in northern border but not planning on stopping in Israel during his tour of the Middle East.

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Elad Benari,

Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson
Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not planning on stopping in Israel during his tour of the Middle East this week, despite Saturday's security incident between Israel and Syria, a State Department official told Haaretz on Sunday.

According to the official, Tillerson, who is currently on a five-country tour of the Middle East, still has no plans to change his schedule and add a stop in Israel. The official said, however, that the recent escalation in Syria is at the top of Tillerson's agenda.

The top U.S. diplomat began on the trip on Sunday, with his first stop in Egypt. He is scheduled to visit Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

"The are no plans on this short trip for the secretary to make a stop in Israel," the State Department official said. "He is keeping close tabs on the situation."

In Saturday's incident, an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace from Syria, remaining in Israel some 90 seconds before the IAF shot it down.

In response to the provocation, Israel attacked the drone's command center. During the IAF operation, Syrian surface-to-air missiles downed an Israeli F-16I fighter jet. Both pilots suffered injuries, and ejected after reaching Israeli territory.

Tillerson spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hours after the incident, according to Haaretz.

The U.S. State Department released a statement following the events on Saturday, in which it criticized Iran and expressed support for Israel.

"The United States is deeply concerned about today's escalation of violence over Israel's border and strongly supports Israel's sovereign right to defend itself," the statement said. "Iran's calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the region - from Yemen to Lebanon - at risk. The U.S. continues to push back on the totality of Iran's malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability."

Similar statements were released by the Pentagon and the White House.








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