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Syria To Defend Itself By All Means Israel Told After Strike

Conflicts1 2021-07-23, 9:43am


President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Creative Commons

Syria has warned Israel that it would defend its territory by any means granted to Damascus through international law, after blaming its foe for two back-to-back airstrikes that struck the country this week.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry released a statement Thursday railing against the latest "cowardly Israeli aggression" after an air raid Wednesday in the Al-Qusayr region of Homs province. The statement alluded to an earlier attack also blamed on Israel against the Al-Safira region in Aleppo.

In both cases, the Syrian Defense Ministry said that anti-air batteries had shot down most of the incoming missiles. No update for Monday's attack was released after the Syrian military said the "results of the aggression are being assessed," while the damage from Wednesday's strike was said to be limited to "material" losses.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told Newsweek that "we do not comment on reports in the foreign media."

The IDF has conducted hundreds of such strikes throughout neighboring Syria's decade-long civil war, mostly targeting sites allegedly linked to Iran-aligned militias, and has routinely neither confirmed nor denied its role in most of the operations.

But Damascus has sought international support against the campaign, which the Syrian Foreign Ministry claimed Wednesday played out in the interests of militant groups such as the Islamic State and Nusra Front. Israel's "dangerous, aggressive approach" would not be possible, it argued, without Western support.

The ministry also warned that Syria "will not hesitate to exercise its right to defend its land, people and sovereignty by all means guaranteed by its constitution, the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of international law."

"The Syrian Arab Republic has repeatedly called on the Security Council to condemn the repeated Israeli attacks on its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to take firm and immediate measures to suppress these attacks and hold Israel accountable for them," the ministry said, "and it has reiterated its warning to Israel of the dangerous repercussions of its continuous attacks and holds it fully responsible for them."

Among the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members, Russia and China have consistently backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since his crackdown in 2011 on protests devolved into a nationwide conflict, while Western powers, especially the United States, have condemned the leader and accused him of widespread human rights abuses.

The U.S., Israel's top ally, has also raised the alarm of Iranian influence in Syria and has repeatedly reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself. Russia, which backs Assad directly while maintaining close ties to both Iran and Israel, has also criticized such Israeli strikes, but has never moved to block them despite its own military presence in the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry's Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, however, reported the Monday attack on Aleppo and noted the Syrian armed forces' use of Russian-made defenses to take down missiles fired by four Israeli jets.

"On July 19, from 23.39 to 23.51, four F-16 tactical fighters of the Israeli Air Force, entering Syrian airspace through the AL-TANF zone controlled by the U.S. armed forces, struck with eight guided missiles at targets southeast of the city of ALEPPO," the Center said. "Seven missiles were destroyed by the Syrian air defense on duty with the Russian-made Pantsir-S and Buk-M2 complexes. One missile damaged the building of a research center in the village of SFIRA in the province of Aleppo."

Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also discussed the conflict on Thursday in a meeting with U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. The two sides agreed ahead of their meeting on the necessity of implementing U.N. Security Council resolution 2254, the sole international consensus on the need to end Syria's war and reach a political solution and improving the country's dire humanitarian situation.

But political obstacles remain. Lavrov blamed the sharp deterioration in humanitarian conditions in Syria on the ongoing conflict and Western sanctions.

"The reason lies in the military conflict, which has devastated most of the territory of Syria, many settlements," Lavrov said, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. "But there are also illegal, suffocating sanctions, the so-called 'Ceasar Act' adopted by the United States, and the complete inaction on the part of the European Union is undoubtedly exacerbating the crisis."

The top Russian diplomat said "it is important for members of the international community who wish to assist in all aspects of Resolution 2254 to sit down at the negotiating table and demonstrate what they are ready to offer, so any formats that are proposed, we will consider in terms of their possible contribution."

Pedersen hoped more progress on the political side would be achieved during his latest Moscow visit.

"I hope that the common understanding that we have made on humanitarian issues, that that could also be developed into more of a unity when it comes to the political process," Pedersen said, according to a readout provided by his office, "because we need to make sure that we not only address the humanitarian issues but as Minister Lavrov said, of course, also all the issues addressed by Security Council resolution 2254."

The U.N. envoy also thanked Russia for its role as guarantor of the trilateral peace process, put together with Iran and Turkey, which came out of talks held in the Kazakh capital of Nur Sultan.

That same day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov met with Tehran's ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali to discuss what the Russian Foreign Ministry described as "topical issues of bilateral cooperation, as well as on the regional and international agenda."

In a further sign of close security ties between Moscow and Tehran, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was set to head to Saint Petersburg on Saturday for Russia's Navy Day.

Iran has also continued to invest in ties with Turkey despite having differing views on Syria and other regional issues. Following a telephone call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the two countries, "as two great powers in the region and the Islamic world, have an important role in resolving regional issues and problems," including Syria.

But Ankara's role in Syria as a sponsor of rebel forces controlling stretches of the country's northern border has been condemned in Damascus.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry alleged in its statement Thursday that the Israeli attack on Homs "coincided with terrorist attacks on the countryside of Aleppo and the Turkish regime's cutting off the waters from the Al-Hasakah governorate."

The latest unrest between Israel and Syria has also coincided with incidents between Israel and another neighboring foe, Lebanon, where the National News Agency reported sounds of an explosion, broken glass and shrapnel in the town of Majdal due to the Syrian attempt to counter the latest strike attributed to Israel on Homs.

And shortly after Monday's strike on Aleppo, two rockets were fired from across the Lebanese border near Al-Qaliyah, south of Tyre toward Israel's Western Galilee region, one of which was said by the IDF to have been intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and the other to have fallen into an open area.

Israeli forces responded with cross-border artillery fire that the Lebanese Armed Forces said hit near the Wadi Hamul area of Tel Armiz.

Israel and Lebanon have since reported a number of cross-border security incidents.

The IDF said Thursday that it had apprehended two suspects who crossed the volatile boundary and ultimately "appear to be job seekers." The Lebanese military ultimately identified the pair as Sudanese nationals who were returned to Lebanon and arrested.

State-run media in Lebanon also reported Thursday that Israeli forces had fired in the air at local Lebanese taking pictures near the border at Mays al-Jabal. – Newsweek via Microsoft News