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Syrian Forces Will Retaliate Immediately, in Case of Further Israeli Attacks

Israel airstrikes loom over US diplomacy on Syria
The Israeli attack on Damascus, May 5, 2013, Khaleej Times Photo The site of the Israeli attack on Damascus, May 5, 2013, SANA Photo, by Arab News

Syrian FM stresses right to respond to Israeli attack

DAMASCUS, May 6, 2013 (Xinhua) --

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al- Moallem on Monday underlined his country's right to respond to the Israeli attack against the Syrian military sites in the capital Damascus earlier this week, the state-run SANA news agency reported.

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, al- Moallem stressed "Syria's right to respond to the Israeli criminal aggression in accordance to the international law and the United Nations' charters."

According to SANA, al-Moallem told Lavrov that the Israeli attack "mirrors the nature of goals that link Israel with the armed terrorist groups in Syria."

For his part, Lavrov briefed al-Moallem on efforts exerted by Russia to stop the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East region following the Israeli attack.

Lavrov underlined the importance of concerted efforts to prevent the escalation of the situation and to curb the tension.

In the meantime, Syria's Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar underlined Syria's ability to defend its territories and sovereignty and to deter any aggression at any time.

He stressed that Syria will keep moving ahead to "purge the Syrian soil of the dirt of terrorists and outlaws."

Before dawn on Sunday, Israel launched airstrikes against a number of Syrian army facilities in Damascus, mainly at a military research center in the capital's suburb of Jamraya.

The Syrian government slammed the attack, saying it "opens the door wide for all eventualities."

Yet, no accurate assessment of the damages and casualties has been released yet.


Israel prepares for eventuality of war over Syria strikes

JERUSALEM, May 6, 2013 (Xinhua) --

Recent airstrikes on Syria carried out by Israel to thwart arms shipments to Hezbollah are not likely to spark an imminent war anytime soon, but Israel has to make full preparations of eventuality of war anytime, a former director of the Shin Bet security service assessed on Monday, local media reported.

"I don't think Israel is going to war, not one similar to the second Lebanon war in 2006, or in any other style," Avi Dichter said in an interview with Army Radio on Monday.

The former Shin Bet chief, who previously headed Israel's Home Front Defense Ministry, said that while a war was not in the offing, Israel "must prepare for scenarios, including severe scenarios, but not panic."

Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, head of the Israeli army's Northern Command, echoed Dichter's assessment. "It will always be right to prepare and train, but there are no winds of war," he said.

The remarks sought to assuage fears in the Israeli public of an imminent Syrian retaliation for two strikes on Syria over the weekend that targeted Iranian shipments of Fateh-110 missiles to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israel does not officially confirm involvement in pre-emptive strikes meant to thwart the transfer of advanced weapons to its enemies. But foreign media outlets, citing anonymous U.S. and Israeli officials, attributed the strikes on Friday and Sunday which targeted a warehouse at a Damascus airport and a military research facility north of the capital, respectively, to the Israeli Air Force.

Dozens of members of the Republican Guard, an elite Syrian military unit, were killed at one of a number of sites targeted in the second strike, the New York Times reported on Monday, quoting a senior Syrian officer.

While Syria refrained from responding to the strikes, President Bashar Assad has warned that further "Israeli aggression" on Syrian territory would be followed by a declaration of war, The Jerusalem Post reported, quoting a Monday report in the Kuwait daily Alrai.

Assad has notified Washington via Moscow that orders had been issued to deploy missile batteries in the event of another attack, the paper said.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi, speaking at a press conference hours after Sunday's strike on the Jamraya military center on Mount Qassioun north of Damascus, said that the Israeli strikes "open the door to all possibilities," though he did not detail how Syria intends to retaliate.

Israeli media on Monday quoted anonymous officials as saying that the prevalent assessment is that Assad, whose military is heavily engaged in fighting against rebels seeking to topple the regime, would not rush to open a front against Israel.

Despite the optimism, Israel has taken steps to prepare for the eventuality of retribution. Hours before Sunday's strike, the military deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the northern cities of Haifa and Safed, and later in the day closed the northern airspace to commercial flights.

Israel has repeatedly said it would take action to prevent advanced weapons, including chemical weapons, from falling into the hands of Hezbollah and other factions that could threaten its security.

The strikes on weekend, which Israel had allegedly launched from Lebanese airspace, targeted the Fateh-110 deployed in Syria, a guided surface-to-surface missile with a range of 300 kilometers capable of hitting targets in central Israel.

Israel targeted the Syrian stocks since its air defenses would not be capable of intercepting this kind of projectiles in the event of war, Israeli media said.


Syria pinpoints targets in Israel to hit in case of further attacks

DAMASCUS, May 5, 2013 (Xinhua) --

The Syrian army has pinpointed targets inside Israel to strike in case of further Israeli attacks against Syria, the state TV said Sunday.

The marked targets would be hit if Israel attacked Syria again, the TV quoted some officials as saying, adding that the Syrian troops have been told to respond to any attack without waiting orders from the supreme command.

"The Syrian missiles are ready to hit specific targets in case of any new breaches," the TV said.

Meanwhile, the TV said Syria has given the green light for the Palestinians to "act against Israel" from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli air force fired rockets toward a military research facility north of Damascus. The powerful blasts sent plumes of smoke into the sky.

The strike came 48 hours after Israeli aircraft allegedly struck a consignment of Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.

The target of Sunday's attack was reportedly the Jamraya military research center, which Israel is said to have struck in late January.


Regional countries slam Israeli attack on Syria

CAIRO, May 5, 2013 (Xinhua) --

A number of countries in the Middle East are pointing their fingers at Israel on Sunday after the latter attacked Syrian military facilities near Damascus earlier in the day.

The Syrian state TV said Israel launched an airstrike on a military research center in a suburb of Damascus before dawn of Sunday. The facility has been hit by an Israeli air raid back in January.


Syria's Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the UN that "the flagrant Israeli aggression against positions of the Syrian army underlines the coordination between Israel and the terrorist groups affiliated with the al-Nusra Front."

"The blatant Israeli aggression aims to render a direct military support to the terrorist groups after their faltered attempts to make gains on ground," the letter read.

Meanwhile, in a government statement read out by Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi, Damascus said Israel's attack "opens the door widely before all eventualities."

"Syria is a state that does not waver and does not accept humiliation and will not accept its sovereignty to be infringed upon either at home or abroad," al-Zoubi said, warning that those who mess with Syria's sovereignty must carefully study their options and shoulder the responsibility.

"Syria is committed to the option of resistance and whoever thinks that Syria can be breakable is wrong and mistaken and must repeat his calculations," he added.

According to latest report of the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV, Syria has deployed missile defense batteries toward Israel in response to the Israeli attack.


On Sunday, Egypt called the Israeli moves "violation of international principles and laws."

Before the Sunday attack, U.S. media said a couple of days ago Israel attacked a convoy carrying missiles from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early hours of Friday. This was confirmed by an unnamed Israeli source, although the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Israeli Defense Forces remained silent on that.

"The attacks would increase complication to the situation in Syria, in addition to posting a threat to the security and stability of the region," according to an Egyptian presidential statement, which described the attacks on Syria as "a test" for the international community, particularly the UN, over Israel's commitment to the rules of international law.

"Egypt invites all states to bear their responsibilities in facing the recurrent Israeli violations and preserve international peace and security," it said.

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called for unity among regional countries and their solidarity against Israeli threats, as Commander of the Iranian Army's Ground Forces, Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan, said Iran is ready to train the Syrian army should Damascus require assistance.

"As a Muslim and friendly country, we stand by Syria and if there is a need for training (the Syrian army), we will provide them with necessary training," Pourdastan said, while stressing that Iran will not have any "active involvement in their (the Syrians) operations," against the conflicts that they are engaged in.

Also, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said Sunday that "the Zionist regime (of Israel)'s attack on Syria, which was done with the green light from the United States, unveiled the connection of mercenary terrorists and the Zionist regime supporters," semi-official Meher news agency reported.

Algeria also slammed the Israeli attacks as seriously violating the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of an Arab state.

The country's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Amar Belani, said " Algeria urges the UN Security Council to assume its responsibility through putting an end to these blatant attacks that worsen the already degraded situation in the region."

Meanwhile, the Jordanian Professional Associations also condemned the Israeli aggression against Syria, saying "it is a continuation of Israel's violation of the rights of the Arabs."

"All should support the Syrians in light of this aggression," Mohammad Ababneh, head of the associations, said, adding that the Arabs should unify their efforts in light of this aggression which seeks to deepen the crisis and differences among the Arabs.

The associations urged the Arab League (AL) not to remain silent over the Israeli actions.

The call was echoed by Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, who asked on Sunday the AL to take a "decisive stance" toward the Israeli hostility against Syria.

Mansour accused Israel of pushing the region to "a destructive confrontation," and urged the AL to be decisive to "avoid further escalation."


Lebanon is now also in the teeth of the storm as the military research center that was targeted by Israel allegedly housed an Iranian missile shipment, reportedly including Fateh-110 missiles, for Hezbollah, a main ally to Syria.

The Israeli administration has previously warned that it will not allow the Syrian government to give sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah. However, Syria's state media charged that Israel targeted Damascus to give a boost to rebels after their recent frustrations.

In the early hours of Sunday, the Israeli army raised the degree of mobilization along the Lebanese border, with warplanes, helicopters and reconnaissance planes intensively flying over Shebaa farms, Arqoub, the Bekaa valley and many other Lebanese regions.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon and truce monitors also intensified their patrols along the Blue Line, drawn in 2000 following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces said Sunday it will shut down civil air traffic in northern Israel until Thursday due to the tensions with Syria and Lebanon.


News Analysis: Three possible motives behind Israel's recent airstrike on Syria

DAMASCUS, May 5, 2013 (Xinhua) --

After Syria accused Israel of launching airstrikes on the country's military sites in Damascus, local media outlets and some Syrian and Lebanese analysts believed that there are three possible motives behind the attack.


The airstrike on Sunday was the second one for Israel to target the same military position inside Damascus. In January, an Israeli air strike targeted the scientific research center in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus.

Israel, after its first attack, claimed that it had targeted weapons' convoy bounding to Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, a main ally to Syria.

On Sunday, western reports cited western intelligence sources as claiming that the latest Israeli attack came to target a shipment of advanced Iranian-made weapons, including Fateh-110 missiles, heading to Hezbollah.

The Fateh-110 is a medium-range, surface-to-surface missile capable of striking targets in central Israel, and is considered a "tie-breaking" weapon that could severely threaten the country's urban centers.

The Israeli administration has previously warned that it will not allow the Syrian government to give sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.

Furthermore, another Israeli airstrike was said to have hit Syria over the weekend but was neither confirmed officially by Israel nor Syria. Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said his government was undertaking a "serious investigation" into the alleged attack.


After the airstrike, mortar shells were reportedly fired by the rebels at the Jamraya research center coupled with intensive attacks by rebel groups on several military checkpoints guarding the capital, according to local media outlets, which charged Israel has timed its attack in coordination with the rebels to storm Damascus.

"The Israeli entity has used its missiles to support the terrorism through targeting the research center," the Syrian state media said in a commentary that followed the Israeli attack.

The state media charged that Israel targeted Damascus to give a boost to the rebels after the abject defeats they have been suffering recently on the ground.

Naser Qandil, a Lebanese political expert, said that Israel was trying to create a fire cover for the rebels to storm the Syrian capital.


Many local political experts believed that the Israeli attack also aimed to trigger a military response by the Syrian troops to engage in a war, which could draw further foreign military intervention.

Since the start of the Syrian crisis, the western-backed Syrian opposition in exile has been craving for a foreign military intervention in Syria under the pretext of protecting civilians.

Over the past year, the armed rebels in Syria backed by extremist Nusra Front have deliberately attacked several airbases across the country. They also tried to attack civilian airports in Damascus and northern city of Aleppo.

The rebels' tactic was seen as a bid to paralyze the Syrian air force to prevent it from carrying on airstrikes against rebel strongholds nationwide.

Amin Hutait, a retired Lebanese brigadier and military expert, told Arab media recently that the rebels have even attacked airbases which were far from the conflict zones, pointing out that the strategy of targeting military airfields aimed to weaken the Syrian air force ability to respond to any foreign aggression. After the first Israeli airstrike in January, Syria's Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij said the Israeli air raid rendered help to the rebels, contending the "armed terrorist groups" had been recently targeting Syria's air-defense systems nationwide on the behest of Israel in order to render those systems out of service.

Israel deems Syria, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, which always refer to themselves as the "axe of resistance" against the Jewish state, as threatening its interests and security in the region.

While the Syrian government has yet to give an official comment on the latest Israeli attack, Iran's officials stressed that the " resistance" will retaliate upon the attack on Syria, adding that " Iran will not allow Tel Aviv to tamper with the region's security, " according to the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV.

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