Syria to 'respond' to any Israeli strikes

2013-05-10 10:00
A Russian surface-to-air missile system S-300. (Kirill Kudryavtsev, AFP)

A Russian surface-to-air missile system S-300. (Kirill Kudryavtsev, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Damascus - Syria has threatened an immediate response to any new Israeli strike, as its militant ally Hezbollah said Damascus would provide "game-changing" weapons despite two reported attacks on military sites.

Damascus also welcomed a US-Russian initiative to find a political solution to end the two-year-old civil war, while balking at Washington's demand that President Bashar Assad would need to stand down.

The Assad regime also said it was ready to receive a UN team to probe claims that chemical weapons had been used in the country.

In an exclusive interview with AFP on Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said "the instruction has been made to respond immediately to any new Israeli attack without [additional] instruction from any higher leadership, and our retaliation will be strong and will be painful against Israel."

Senior Israeli sources have said strikes early on Friday and Sunday targeted weapons bound for the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah based in neighbouring Lebanon, but Muqdad denied that.

In Beirut, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Syria would supply his movement with "game-changing weapons" and open up the front to "resistance fighters" against the Jewish state on the Golan Heights.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day war and subsequently annexed it.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it will intervene to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, with which it fought a devastating 2006 war.

US-Russian ‘rapprochement’

Hezbollah is battling alongside Assad's troops in several parts of the country.

The regime is relying increasingly on its alliance with Hezbollah, and Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar quoted Assad as saying that Syria would "give Hezbollah everything" for its loyalty.

The military and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog group both reported that loyalist forces, including Hezbollah elements, had advanced in the Qusayr area, strategically located along the Lebanese border.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the army's campaign was "fierce."

An army officer told AFP the military seized control of Shumariyeh village near Qusayr "and troops are currently on their way to the village of Ghassaniyeh," which has been under rebel control for more than a year.

Meanwhile, Syria's foreign ministry welcomed the US-Russian "rapprochement," under which the two countries will seek to convene an international conference to build on a six-point accord agreed in Geneva last year.

Regime’s top ally

The Geneva agreement aimed at finding a path towards a transitional government but made no mention of Assad's departure, which the opposition says is non-negotiable.

US Secretary John Kerry said Assad would have to step down as part of the resolution to the conflict.

That was rejected by the Syrian foreign ministry, which stressed that the decision belongs "only" to the Syrian people.

And the ministry said it was "confident that the Russian position, which is based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law, will not change."

Russia is a top ally of the regime in Damascus and has staunchly resisted any bid to oust Assad.

The Obama administration is treading cautiously on Syria, and the reports of chemical weapons use, after what it sees as Washington's past errors in the Iraq invasion and occupation, Vice President Joe Biden said.

Russian S-300 missiles

Biden told Rolling Stone magazine that "we don't want to blow it like the last administration did in Iraq, saying 'weapons of mass destruction.'"

Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, cited by George W Bush's administration as the main motive to launch the US-led invasion in 2003, never surfaced after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Biden stressed that once the use of the chemical weapons has been verified, Obama would likely make a "proportional response in terms of meaningful action," without providing further details.

Echoing the cautious tone, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the problems that plague the Middle East, including Syria's civil war, require "political, not military" solutions.

The United Nations said its Syria envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, has withdrawn a threat to quit and will stay the course in light of the US-Russian agreement.

And The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had informed Washington about the imminent sale to Syria of Russian S-300 missile batteries, advanced ground-to-air weapons that can take out aircraft or guided missiles.

Reacting to the report, Kerry warned in Rome that the sale would be "potentially destabilising" for the region.

Moscow has continued to supply Damascus with weapons throughout the conflict, which has left more than 70 000 people dead since March 2011.

Under mounting international pressure over the possible use of chemical weapons, Syria said it was ready to receive a UN team to investigate the claims.

"We were ready and we are always ready, right now, to receive the delegation that was set up by Ban Ki-moon to investigate what happened in Khan al-Assal," Muqdad said, referring to a village near Aleppo where authorities say rebels used chemical weapons, killing 30 people.

He added that the use of chemical weapons was a "red line for President Assad."

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
20 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.