(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria President Bashar Assad has claimed Israel is perpetrating attacks in the war-torn country in order to bolster radical Islamist forces that seek to topple his regime.
In a preview of an interview with American magazine Foreign Affairs set to be published Monday, Assad said "it is very clear" that Israel's agenda is to back rebel forces.
He accused Israel of conducting air strikes in Syria, saying "whenever we make advances in some place, they attack in order to undermine the army. It’s very clear."
"That’s why some in Syria joke, 'How can you say that al-Qaida doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force'," he told Foreign Affairs.
Assad's comments came a week after a missile attack
, purportedly carried out by Israel, which killed an Iranian officer and the son of Hezbollah's late military chief in the Syrian province of Quneitra near the Israeli border.
Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike.
However, Israeli security sources have both anonymously confirmed and denied Israeli responsibility for the attack.
On Friday, Israel warned Lebanon
and Syria not to allow any attacks on Israel from their soil.
"Israel will see the governments, regimes and organizations beyond its northern border as responsible for what emanates from their territory," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in a statement. "(Israel) will exact a price for any harm inflicted on Israeli sovereignty, civilians and soldiers."
Fears of a retaliation by Lebanon's Hezbollah or other groups prompted Israel to move troops and equipments towards its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria last week.Yaakov Lappin and Reuters contributed to this report.