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Allies of Syria condemn reported Israeli attack

January 31, 2013|By Patrick J. McDonnell
  • An Israeli soldier walks by an Iron Dome short-range missile defense system positioned near the northern city of Haifa. Israelis were on alert for possible retaliation in connection with a reported airstrike on Syria by their military.
An Israeli soldier walks by an Iron Dome short-range missile defense system… (Oren Ziv / Getty Images )

BEIRUT -- The chief international allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday lined up in condemnation of a reported Israeli airstrike on Syria, even as the target of the raid remained in dispute. However, there was no direct threat of retaliation against Israel.

The Syrian government and independent news agencies reported on the Wednesday morning strike, though offering different accounts of the attack.

Syria said Israeli warplanes flying low to avoid radar bombed a "scientific research center" in a dawn raid near Damascus, the Syrian capital, leaving two dead and five injured at the unspecified "resistance and self-defense" installation.

News accounts based on anonymous sources from the United States and elsewhere suggested that Israeli fighters struck a military convoy with weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group closely allied with Damascus.

Israel has not confirmed or denied the reported attack. Tel Aviv has expressed concern about the possibility of Syrian chemical and conventional weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah or other militant Islamic groups hostile to Israel.

The reactions so far indicate that Damascus and its allies plan to use the incident to tarnish the Syrian opposition, calling the raid  evidence of Israeli complicity in the almost two-year uprising against Assad. Israel and Syrian opposition forces have denied any Israeli involvement in the rebellion.

A day after the raid, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was "deeply concerned" about reports of the attack, which, if it occurred, amounted to "unprovoked" aggression that "blatantly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it."

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called the attack a "blatant violation ... in line with the policy of the West and the Zionists," reported Iran's English-language Press TV.

Press TV quoted Iran's deputy foreign minister as saying the attack "will have serious consequences" for Israel, but provided no details.

Iran has warned publicly than any attack on Syrian soil would be considered an assault on Iranian territory.

Russia and Iran have been Assad's staunchest allies, blocking international action against the Syrian government and providing financial, logistics and military support to Damascus.

Hezbollah, a close ally of Iran and Syria, said the attack unveiled a "conspiracy against Damascus and our Arab and Muslim people," according to the website of Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006 that the Lebanese Shiite group hailed as a victory, a characterization denied by Israel. Since then, Hezbollah is widely believed to have bolstered its arsenal and fighting capabilities, receiving armaments, as well as training, from Iran, its longtime benefactor. Syria has served as a corridor for Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah, say Western and Israeli authorities.

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Special correspondent Lava Selo contributed to this report.

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