Political Editor: The Majalla
on : Friday, 1 Feb, 2013
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Syria Threatens “Surprise” Retaliation

Syria warns of retaliation for Israel attack

Statues of Israeli soldiers standing guard are seen next to a sign for tourists showing the different distances to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Damascus, and other locations at an army post in Mount Bental in the annexed Golan Heights on January 31, 2013. Source: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Statues of Israeli soldiers standing guard are seen next to a sign for tourists showing the different distances to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Damascus, and other locations at an army post in Mount Bental in the annexed Golan Heights on January 31, 2013. Source: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON, Asharq Al-Awsat—Israel faces threats of retaliation from Syria following Wednesday’s reported Israeli bombing of a weapons convoy heading for Lebanon from Syria. Damascus strongly denied these reports, claiming that the target was a military research center northwest of Damascus (located 8 miles from the Syrian–Lebanese border), protesting to the UN, and warning of a possible “surprise” response.

Diplomats, Syrian rebel forces, and security sources reported that Israeli jets bombed a convoy close to the Lebanese border on Wednesday, claiming that this convoy was transporting weapons destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Syrian state television was quoted as saying, “Syria holds Israel and those who protect it in the Security Council fully responsible for the results of this aggression and affirms its right to defend itself, its land, and sovereignty.”

Speaking on Thursday, Syria’s ambassador to Beirut said Damascus could take a “surprise” decision to respond to the Israeli aggression. The ambassador gave no further details regarding potential responses but echoed state television, stating that Syria was “defending its sovereignty and its land.”

The Syrian Foreign Minister summoned the head of UN forces in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to deliver an official protest to the Israeli air raid. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said that it considered Wednesday’s attack to be a violation of the 1974 military disengagement agreement signed between Tel Aviv and Damascus following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, demanding that the UN Security Council unequivocally condemn this violation of its territory.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed “grave concern” following the incident, calling on all concerned parties to prevent further tensions and escalation. The UN secretary-general’s office added that international law and sovereignty should be respected.

Israel has refused to comment on this air raid or Syria’s subsequent threats of retaliation, following the same approach of total silence that it pursued when it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site in 2007.

Following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, Tel Aviv has frequently warned that it would view Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons falling into Hezbollah hands as a mandate for war. Israel has also raised concern over long-range Scud missiles or other sophisticated weaponry, such as anti-aircraft systems or surface-to-surface missiles, being transferred to Hezbollah.

An Arab League spokesman described the bombing as a “glaring violation” of Syria’s sovereignty. While Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Araby said, “The silence of the international community about Israel’s bombing of Syrian sites in the past encouraged it to carry out the new aggression, taking advantage of political and security deterioration in Syria.”

Syrian state television reported that two people were killed and five wounded in the attack. While the Iranian ISNA news agency quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as saying that, “The Zionist regime’s attack on the outskirts of Damascus will have grave consequences for Tel Aviv.”

For its part, Hezbollah pledged full solidarity with the Syrian regime, asserting that Israel had “perpetuated a barbaric attack.” The Hezbollah statement added that this latest Israeli attack was in line with Tel Aviv’s inherent spirit of aggression and criminality, as well as in accordance with Israel’s policy of preventing Arab and Islamic powers from developing technical and military capabilities.

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