Al Jazeera & The Associated Press – 2013-05-05 23:44:30
Syria Warns Israel after ‘Latest Air Raids’
Alleged attacks “open the door to all possibilities”, Syria’s information minister says, as Arab League urges UN action
(May 5, 2013) — Syria’s information minister has given warning that Israeli air raids against three targets on the outskirts of Damascus “open the door to all possibilities”.
Omran al-Zoubie’s comments in Damascus on Sunday came after an emergency cabinet meeting organised to respond to what a Western source said was a new attack on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Although Zoubie did not hint at a concrete course of action, he said it was Syria’s duty to protect the state from any “domestic or foreign attack through all available means”.
He claimed the Israeli attacks are evidence of the country’s links with “Islamic extremist groups” trying to the Syrian government.
Israel declined to confirm the attack so as not to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into serious retaliation, according to a confidant of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister.
Sunday’s attack is the third Israeli assault this year on Syrian soil.
Previous raids on Syria by Israel — which commands one of the most advanced militaries in the world and is backed by the US — have not elicited a military response from Syria or its allies Iran and Hezbollah.
Israel declined to confirm the strike so as not to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into serious retaliation, according to a confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli fighter jets struck areas in and around the Damascus, setting off a series of explosions, officials and activists said.
The attack, the second in three days and the third this year, signalled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s civil war.
Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research centre near Damascus and caused casualties.
Syria’s government called the attacks against against its territory a “flagrant violation of international law” that have made the Middle East “more dangerous”.
A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an air attack in Damascus early on Sunday.
The targets were reportedly the Jamraya military and scientific research centre near Damascus; a Syrian Republican Guard base is located nearby.
The target was Fateh-110 missiles, which have precision guidance systems with better aim than anything Hezbollah is known to have in its arsenal, the official told the Associated Press news agency.
Dilemma for Regime
While the Assad government tried to use the air attacks to taint the rebels by linking them to Israel, the attacks still pose a dilemma for a regime already battling a relentless rebellion at home.
If it fails to respond, it looks weak and opens the door to such air strikes becoming a common occurrence.
But any military retaliation against Israel would risk dragging Israel and its powerful army into a broader conflict.
The tempo of the new raids added a dangerous dynamic to the conflict,causing concern that events could spin out of control and spark a regional crisis.
Israel’s military deployed on Sunday two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defence system to the north of the country. It described the move as part of “ongoing situational assessments”.
Earlier, Syria’s foreign ministry accused Israel of working with “terrorist groups”.
“The blatant Israeli aggression against military sites in Syria confirms the coordination between Israel and terrorist groups and the takfiris of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is a branch of Al-Qaeda,” the ministry said in a letter to the UN.
The ministry said the support was intended to boost “terrorist groups after the failure of their recent attempts to achieve control on the ground.”
The Israeli raids were strongly condemned by Egypt as a “violation” of international law while the Cairo-based Arab League demanded UN Security Council intervention to stop such Israeli attacks.
Political Analyst Fawaz Gerges
Discusses Possible Consequences
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