Israeli air strike: Syria and Iran vow to retaliate

Arab League, Egypt condem attack. But target remains unclear

31 January, 20:45

An Israeli F-15 jet fighter (archive) An Israeli F-15 jet fighter (archive)

(ANSAmed) - BEIRUT - Iran's deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, has been quoted by US media as saying that "there will be serious consequences for the Israeli city of Tel Aviv" in retaliation for an Israeli air strike on a Syrian military site. The threat was echoed by the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, who said that Damascus reserves the right to carry out a "surprise" strike against Israel as payback for the Israeli air strike in Syria on Tuesday night. Syria may "unexpectedly decide to respond to the attack by Israeli planes," said the diplomat, Ali Abdul Karim, quoted by the Tayyar website of the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese former general Michel Aoun's Maronite Christian party (allied with the pro-Syrian Hezbollah).

The Syrian government has today called on the UN to take action so that "the Israeli violation" is not repeated, and called for intervention by "international forces". The news was given by Syrian state TV via a screen overlay of a Foreign Ministry statement. The ministry has urged "the commander of international forces to take the necessary measures within the UN against the dangerous Israeli violation, and to guarantee that this does not happen again," according to the statement. The reference is to the UN buffer zone forces (UNDOF) deployed since 1974 on a part of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel. The target of the alleged Israeli air strike was a location north of Damascus and - according to reconstructions by Israeli media - the UNDOF area of competence was not part of the route used by the Israeli fighter jets, which instead allegedly crossed Lebanon and entered Syria from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Almost 48 hours after an Israeli air strike in Syria, amid the utter silence of Israeli authorities, the objective of the attack remains unclear. Was it a site for military research, as the Syrian army announced, or a convoy transporting weapons to the Shia militias of the Lebanese Hezbollah, as Western diplomatic and security sources say? The Syrian Armed Forces issued a statement on state TV yesterday evening saying that the attack had targeted a ''centre for research to raise resistance and self-defence levels'' in Jamraya, about fifteen kilometres north-west of Damascus, near the Lebanese border. It also stated that the air strike had killed two people and injured five others.

Several Western diplomats and security chiefs who asked to remain anonymous have instead said that the Israeli jets hit a convoy carrying arms to the Lebanese Hezbollah (allies of the Syrian regime). A US official quoted by the New York Times and the BBC said that the load included SA-17 Russian anti-aircraft missiles, supplied by Moscow to Syria after a previous attack reportedly carried out in 2007 on the Al-Kibar nuclear site in Deir Az-Zor. The attack was never officially acknowledged by Israel, while Damascus never officially acknowledged that the target was a nuclear weapons production facility, nor did it carry out any retaliatory attacks on that occasion.
Lebanon has simply stated that on Tuesday night (when the attack occurred) several Israeli plans violated its air space.
However, even the route taken by the jets remains unclear. The website of the Israeli daily Maariv reports that the planes flew over the Golan Heights and then headed north, all the way to the objective, flying along the border between Lebanon and Syria.
Haaretz instead reports that it was likely that the Israeli jets flew north over the Mediterranean to Beirut, and then turned east towards Damascus.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby on Thursday condemned Israel's "hateful aggression" against a Syrian military research center, calling it "a clear violation of the sovereignty of an Arab state that contravenes the UN Charter". El-Araby called on the international community to take responsibility for Israeli "aggressions" and defended Syria's right "to defend its territory and its sovereignty."

Egypt also has condemned the "Israeli attack on Syrian territory", warning against similar attacks posing a "danger to regional security". The remarks were made by Egypt's foreign minister, Kamel AmrHe noted that the attack violated international law. Amr asked the international community to officially lay the blame on Israel for these "acts of aggression against Arab lands. (ANSAmed).

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