Iran threatened that a reported Israeli strike in Syria would have “grave consequences for Tel Aviv” on Thursday, days after saying that an attack on Syria would be seen as an attack on Iran.
On Wednesday, Damascus said Israeli planes struck a “research facility” northwest of the Syrian capital. The accusation came after reports from foreign news sources earlier in the day saying Israel hit a weapons convoy near the Syria-Lebanon border that was transferring arms to the terror group Hezbollah.
“The Israeli regime’s strike on Syria will have serious consequences for Tel Aviv,” one of Tehran’s deputy foreign ministers was quoted by the semi-official PressTV network as saying.
Iran is a major backer of both Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi condemned the airstrike on state television, calling it a clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty. His statement echoed similar condemnations from Russia, the Arab League and Hezbollah.
Last week, Iran warned the West against intervening in the ongoing civil war in Syria, with top adviser Ali Akbar Velayati saying that “an attack on Syria is considered an attack on Iran and Iran’s allies.”
Israel has declined to comment on the reports of the strikes. Officials have said in the past that it would act to keep chemical weapons or other arms from being transfered to Hezbollah.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday that any transfer of arms to Hezbollah “would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach.”
Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, who became in December one of the most senior Syrian army officers to defect, told The Associated Press by telephone from Turkey that the targeted site near Damascus is a “major and well-known” center of weapons development known as the Scientific Research Center.
Al-Shallal, who until his defection was the commander of the Military Police, said no chemical or unconventional weapons were at the site. He added that foreign experts, including Russians and Iranians, are usually at such centers.
On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Israel’s air force carried out a number of sorties around the Lebanese-Syrian border on Tuesday and Wednesday. The target was reportedly a convoy carrying advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.
Regional security officials said Wednesday the shipment included sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which if acquired by Hezbollah would enable the militants to shoot down Israeli jets, helicopters and surveillance drones. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
A Western official told The Wall Street Journal that the two reports may not be mutually exclusive.
Russia, Syria’s strongest international ally, said Moscow is taking “urgent measures to clarify the situation in all its details.”
“If this information is confirmed, we have a case of unprovoked attacks on targets in the territory of a sovereign state, which grossly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “Whatever the motives, this is not justified.”
Earlier Thursday, Hezbollah condemned the attack, claiming that it was intended to stunt “Arab and Islamic technological development.”
“In line with its inherent spirit of aggression and criminality, and in accordance with its policy of preventing any Arab or Islamic power from developing technological and military capabilities, Israel perpetrated a barbaric attack against a Syrian installation for scientific research on Syrian territory, causing the death of a number of Syrians, the injury of others, and the destruction of the installation,” the statement read.
Lebanon and the Arab League slammed Israel for the attacks, calling them a violation of the countries’ sovereignty.
Jerusalem has long feared that Syrian chemical weapons could be turned against Israel.
Earlier this week, Israel moved a battery of its new Iron Dome rocket defense system to the northern city of Haifa, which was battered by Hezbollah rocket fire in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. The Israeli army called that move “routine.”
Israel Military Intelligence Chief Aviv Kochavi is in Washington for consultations at the Pentagon, including meetings with Joint Chiefs of Staff head Martin Dempsey.
News & Politics
Standard YouTube License