(Calev Ben-David) Israeli aircraft attacked military sites on the outskirts of Damascus, sending a fireball over the capital in what a Syrian official said was a declaration of war.
Israel didn’t confirm involvement in the assault yesterday that rocked the Syrian capital. Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, said the Jewish state was betting it could strike because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is too mired in his own civil war to carry out reprisal threats.
Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad told CNN the airstrikes were a “declaration of war” and that the government would retaliate in its own time. The country’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, said in a statement on state TV that the attack opens doors to all possibilities and that Syria would use “any means” to protect its people.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t address the attacks in opening remarks to his weekly Cabinet session. The Israeli leader did delay a scheduled trip to China for at least two hours to convene his inner security Cabinet.
Syria deployed rocket batteries directed toward Israel, the pro-government Damas Post website said, and the Israeli army said two Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed in the north.
Israel’s Arkia Israeli Airlines Ltd. suspended all flights from the northern city of Haifa to the southern city of Eilat on military order, Ynet said. An army spokeswoman, speaking anonymously in accordance with regulation, said civilian aviation coordinates operations with theair force and in accordance with operational assessments.
“Apparently the Syrians and the Iranians have crossed a red line of the Israelis and that means that weapons of an advanced nature, probably missiles, have been moved from Iran to Syria with intentions of moving them to Hezbollah,” U.S. Senator John McCain said on the “Fox News Sunday”program. “The whole thing is escalating.”
Israel is also suspected of carrying out an airstrike in Syria on May 3. The Associated Press, citing unidentified Israeli officials, said the attack targeted a shipment of missiles thought to be bound for Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Israel and the U.S. consider Hezbollah a terrorist group.
“Countries in the region must be aware and know that creating instability in the region is to step into the game of the Zionists,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said yesterday. Israel “should know that these crimes won’t remain without a response.”
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the attacks “have taken place with a U.S. green light,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, the commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces, said the “Syrian army is strong and ready to defend its borders but if needed we can provide training assistance,” according to the state-run Mehr news agency.
The extent to which the tension may escalate depends on Iran, said Aaron David Miller, vice president of Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars in Washington.
“This is part of the Iranian-Syrian Cold War. The question is, do the Iranians want to make it hot, and my inclination would be to think no,” Miller said. He said that should Iran decide to escalate violence, it would enlist Hezbollah.
Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr condemned the Israeli airstrike, according to the official MENA news agency. Yemen’s government also denounced the raids, the state-run Yemen News Agency reported.
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