Israel closes Golan ski run after US kills Iran commander

A photo of Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the Israel-Syria border on Jan 21, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Wary of attack by Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon or Syria after the US killed a top Iranian commander, the Israeli army Friday (Jan 3) closed a ski resort in the annexed Golan Heights.

"Following a security assessment, it was decided to close Mount Hermon to visitors today," an army spokeswoman told AFP. "There are no further instructions for civilians in the area."

The ski resort lies in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move still not recognised by most of the international community.

Across the armistice line sits Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Israel's bitter foe with which it fought in 2006.

There has so far been no official Israeli comment on the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani in a US missile strike on Friday morning.

Israel is a close ally and warm supporter of the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a visit to Greece and in his absence, Defence Minister Naftali Bennett was to chair a meeting of the security Cabinet Friday, Israeli media said.

The papers reported that Mr Netanyahu had ordered ministers not to comment on the killing.

Mr Yair Lapid, a senior member of the Blue and White alliance seeking to unseat Mr Netanyahu, was however quick to congratulate US President Donald Trump in a Facebook post.

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"He who led murderous terrorist attacks from Damascus to Buenos Aires and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents got the end he deserved.

"The Iranian regime is a terror regime and, against terror, determination and strength are required," Mr Lapid wrote.

In the Gaza Strip, the Islamist Hamas movement which rules the territory, condemned Gen Soleimani's killing but did not make any overt threats.

"Hamas sends its condolences to the Iranian leadership and people," a statement said. "Hamas condemns this American crime which raises tension in the region."

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