Syria refers Israeli attack to UN and threatens 'consequences'

Jan 31, 2013

Reports that Israeli jets have struck targets inside Syria set to further inflame tensions in region

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SYRIA has complained to the UN and threatened "consequences" after Israeli jets reportedly attacked a military research centre near Damascus yesterday, a provocative move Russia has called an "unacceptable violation" of the UN Charter.

Syria's army claims Israeli aircraft launched the dawn raid on the research centre north-west of Damascus, killing two people and injuring five. Israel refused to comment on the incident today, but the alleged attack has been condemned by Russia, which is one of Syria's few allies and has "steadfastly refused to denounce" President Bashar al-Assad during the 22-month conflict, the BBC says.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said: "If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it."

The BBC points out that relations between Russia and Israel have been improving in recent times due to "trade and economic ties". But Moscow's apparently unshakeable allegiance to Assad means the reported air attack was bound to draw strong criticism.

AP says the attack adds "a potentially flammable new element" to regional tensions because of Iran's support of the Syrian regime. The news agency points out that Iran has said it will treat any Israeli attack on Syria as an attack on itself.

The Syrian military says the Israeli jets flew into Syria at low altitude to avoid detection by radar. The centre was hit by six Israeli rockets which left the complex "partly destroyed" and started a fire, the Daily Telegraph reports. The paper notes that the alleged attack comes after Israel "expressed concerns" that Damascus's supply of chemical weapons could "fall into the hands" of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamic militant group that is an ally of Assad's regime and committed to the destruction of Israel.

There are unconfirmed reports that the real target of the Israeli attack was a Syrian arms convoy carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles which were heading for Lebanon. AP says that if the missiles were acquired by Hezbollah it would be a "game-changing" event that would allow the militants to "blunt Israel's air power".

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It will be interesting to know whether William Hague the Queen's Foreign Minister will condemn the attack or duck the issue, the next time he is interviewed?

Inflamatory - yes; but it could be argued that, if the anti-aircraft missiles were heading to Lebanon, this was an act of self-defense.