News Column

Iran, Hezbollah Slam Israeli Airstrike on Syria

Jan. 31, 2013

Jan. 31--BEIRUT -- Lebanon's Hezbollah and its backer Iran condemned Thursday a recent Israeli airstrike on a military target in Syria as Russia said it was taking "urgent measures" to confirm the incident had indeed taken place.

"Hezbollah strongly condemns this new Zionist [Israeli] aggression on Syria," the resistance group said in a statement, describing the attack as a "barbaric" move by the Jewish state.

Foreign officials and Syrian state TV said Wednesday Israel had conducted a rare airstrike on a military target inside Syria, denying claims that the strike had targeted a convoy heading from Syria to Lebanon.

Tehran, which backs Assad and Hezbollah, also slammed Wednesday the attack which the Syrian military said targeted a military research center in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus and about 15 kilometers from the border with Lebanon.

"There is no doubt that this aggression is part of a Western and Zionist strategy to push aside the success of the Syrian people and government to return to stability and security," Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's foreign minister, said in a statement.

Israel has not confirmed or denied any involvement in the alleged strike.

Despite maintaining silence over the Syrian claims, Damascus' claims Wednesday came only days after Israeli officials stepped up rhetoric about Syrian's weapons stockpile.

Israel's vice premier, Silvan Shalom, said over the weekend any sign Damascus was losing grip on its weapons stockpile could trigger Israeli military strikes.

In its statement Thursday, Hezbollah said the incident revealed the Jewish state's "motives toward [unrest] in Syria over the past two years and the criminal thinking aimed at destroying Syria and its army and eliminating its pivotal resistance and rejectionist role to pave the way for unfolding the chapters of a major conspiracy against [Syria] and against our Arab and Muslim peoples."

The resistance group also urged caution over the motives behind the attack.

"Hezbollah, which expresses full solidarity with Syria, its army and people, underlines the need for some to be aware of the dangers behind the attack."

Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian government regard themselves as belonging to what they call the "axis of resistance" against the Jewish state.

Salehi said the attack underscores the "alignment of terrorist groups with the Zionists' objectives."

Russia, for its part, said it was "deeply concerned" by the Syrian claims of the Israeli attack and said Moscow was taking "urgent measures" to clarify the situation.

"If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification," a Russian Foreign Minister statement said.

Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman also denounced the Israeli attack, saying the Jewish state was exploiting the unrest in Syria for its own interests.

"Israel is using the ongoing situation in Syria to implement its aggressive policies, overlooking international treaties and humanitarian rights and norms," Sleiman said in a statement Thursday, according to the president's office.

Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, warned that Damascus has "the option and the surprise to retaliate."

He said he could not predict when the retaliation would take place, according to the Associated Press, saying it was up to relevant authorities to prepare for it.

In Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as saying the raid on Syria would have significant implications for the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, the AP reported.

-- The Daily Star, Agencies

Source: (c)2013 The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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