War Talk: Syria Warns Israel ‘Will Suffer’ After Air Strikes

Israel’s air strikes against targets in Syria this weekend may signal the beginning of wider Israeli involvement in the two-year-old civil war that Syrian rebels have waged against the Assad regime. A Syrian official warned Sunday that Israel “will suffer” in retaliation for attacks that apparently targeted weapons shipments and a military research facility near Damascus.

“When they attack, this is a declaration of war,” Syria’s deputy foreign minister told CNN. “We dealt with this on several occasions, and we retaliated the way we wanted, and the retaliation was always painful to Israel, and they will suffer again.”

Israeli officials refused to comment on what U.S. officials said were air strikes against targets in Syria. The New York Times reported that American officials said an attack Thursday night was made by Israeli jets against a “shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah.” Explosions in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning near Damascus “shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky,” Reuters news agency reported:

A Western intelligence source told Reuters: “In last night’s attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah.” …
Syrian state television said bombing at a military research facility at Jamraya and two other sites caused “many civilian casualties and widespread damage”, but it gave no details. The Jamraya compound was also a target for Israel on January 30.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television showed a flattened building … with smoke rising from rubble …
Syrian state television quoted a letter from the foreign minister to the United Nations saying: “The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory.”

Anti-government rebels in Syria — including Islamist extremist groups, some with ties to the al-Qaeda terror network — have been battling the Iran-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Reports that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian rebels have provoked criticism of President Obama, who had previously warned that such weapons would be a “red line” that could trigger U.S. intervention. The Commentator wrote Sunday:

The news of an Israeli intervention in Syria has caught the Obama administration on the back foot, with the US president refusing to comment at length about the strike. Obama said, “The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”
The US president made no mention of supposed “red lines” being crossed, despite evidence of Syria’s used of chemical weapons against rebel forces. Critics have hit out at Barack Obama in recent days for failing to put forward any coherent strategy to bring the violence in Syria to an end. The inaction, according to some, is another example of Obama’s “lead from behind” strategy, the same tactic he employed during the intervention in Libya.

Some sources speculated Sunday that Israel’s renewed attacks in Syria might represent a U.S.-approved measure against Assad, while others suggested Israel might have its own motives: Israel might help the rebels topple Assad, expecting in return a recognition of Israeli control over the disputed Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967.



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