Concerns are raised that the stage is being set for foreign military intervention in Syria following a second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days.
On Sunday, Israeli forces struck targets in Syria for the second time in 48 hours amidst concerns that the Syrian civil war could result in chemical weapons falling into the hands of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Footage shown on Syrian state television purported to show damage caused by the Israeli airstrikes an area at the outskirts of Damascus (video, below).
We are seriously concerned by the signs of preparation of global public opinion for possible armed intervention in the long-running internal conflict in Syria. Alexander Lukashevich, Russian foreign ministry
The suprise escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria led to barely veiled criticism from a number of powers, and also claims from the Syrian government that Israel had committed a “flagrant violation of international law”.
Israel has previously threatened to take action to prevent sophisticated weapons falling into the militant group Hezbollah’s hands. On Sunday it deployed two missile batteries for its Iron Dome defence system to protect its border, and on Monday deployed troops in the north of the country.
On Monday Russia, a long standing arms supplier to Assad’s regime, said the Israeli airstrikes were a source of “particular alarm”.
Israel is playing with fire. Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian foreign ministry
“We are seriously concerned by the signs of preparation of global public opinion for possible armed intervention in the long-running internal conflict in Syria,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
“The further escalation of armed confrontation sharply increases the risk of creating new areas of tension, in addition to Syria, in Lebanon, and the destabilisation of the so far relatively calm atmosphere on the Lebanese-Israeli border,” he added.
“The internationalisation of the extremely dangerous and destructive internal conflict in Syria must not be permitted.”
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Syrian ally Iran, which backs Hezbollah, called for countries in the region to unite against the Israeli “assault”. “Israel is playing with fire,” Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday.
Iranian government-linked news agency Fars reported that army ground forces commander Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said on Sunday: “Syria has a powerful army and with the structure and experience it has against the Zionist regime (Israel) it can definitely defend itself and there is no need for intervention by other countries. But if they need training we can help them.”
I do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground in Syria, would not only be good for America, but also be good for Syria. Barack Obama
China’s foreign ministry also criticised the Israeli action, saying: “We oppose the use of military force and believe any country’s sovereignty should be respected”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also urged restraint. Mr Ban’s spokesman said in a statement: “The secretary-general urges respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries in the region, and adherence to all relevant Security Council resolutions.”
Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strikes, though a senior government source said both airstrikes had targeted shipments of Fateh-110 missiles bound for Hezbollah. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a covert military operation.
Tzahi Hanegbi, an Israeli lawmaker who is close to Netanyahu, said on Monday that Israel’s aim is to “keep advanced weapons from Hezbollah as soon as intentions are exposed and refrain from tension with Syria”.
“So if there is activity, then it is only against Hezbollah and not against the Syrian regime,” Hanegbi told Israel Radio. “In that context you must see the fact that Israel doesn’t officially admit to its operations, and that the prime minister left yesterday for China and (there is) the feeling of business as usual.”
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Israel’s main ally, the US, is so far ruling out American military intervention in Syria. Speaking on Sunday, Barack Obama said: “As a general rule, I don’t rule things out as commander-in-chief because circumstances change and you want to make sure that I always have the full power of the United States at our disposal to meet American national security interests.
“Having said that, I do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground in Syria, would not only be good for America, but also be good for Syria.”