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Trump administration appears to back Israeli attacks in Syria

US State Department says Washington 'fully supports Israel's right to defend itself' from Iranian influence in Syria
Israel has carried out dozens of air strikes on targets in Syria over past seven years (AFP/file photo)
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WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump's administration has appeared to endorse Israeli air strikes in Syria, only days after Israeli jets bombed a weapons depot outside of Damascus in an operation that Russia said endangered civilian flights.

"Iranian support of and supply to terrorist groups in Syria and across the region that have the clear intent and capability to strike Israel are unacceptable," the US State Department said in a statement on Friday.

"The United States fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism, and we will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively."

The State Department did not specifically mention the air raids on Syria, which Israel rarely confirms. But the statement comes three days after an Israeli strike in Syria that Moscow called "a gross violation of the sovereignty of Syria".

Israel has carried out dozens of air strikes on various targets in Syria over the past seven years. The Israeli army does not usually comment on such attacks, but officials have said that they targeted Iranian forces and Tehran-backed militants in the war-torn country.

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Trump announced last week that he is withdrawing some 2,000 American soldiers from Syria. While the stated mission of the US troops was to combat the Islamic State (IS) group, administration officials had suggested that the US military presence in Syria was also aimed at countering Iranian influence.

The White House is facing mounting criticism over the withdrawal, including accusations that Trump is abandoning Washington's Israeli and Kurdish allies.

In its statement on Friday, the State Department also emphasised the Trump administration's backing for Israel's security.

"The commitment of the Trump Administration and the American people to ensuring Israel’s security is both enduring and unshakable," the department said.