Iran has vowed to respond to Israel's alleged airstrikes in Syria earlier this week with "blows under the belt in several locations," Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Wednesday.
In a message from Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, related to Syrian President Bashar Assad by Iranian envoy Ali Akbar Salehi, the Islamic Republic promised "full and unlimited support from Iran, politically, militarily, and economically, to the Syrian leadership and people, against the takfiris, terrorists, Israel, the US, and all who dare attack this country."
The message also said that Tehran recognizes that the real target behind Israel's alleged attacks on Syrian soil were Iran and Hezbollah.
The paper quotes Iranian sources as saying the response to Israel's alleged strikes will be made on two levels. The first being “blows under the belt in several locations,” which could be done inside Syria under the policy of "contain, squeeze and crush," or outside of it, while maintaining the "terror balance."
The second possible way of response will be calling a meeting of "the friends of the Syrian people" in Tehran in two weeks, in which Iran will "announce a new initiative for a Syrian solution." More than 40 countries will be invited, and President Assad will be represented by ministers Ali Haidar and Qadri Jamil.
The Iranian sources also told Al-Akhbar Israel's "aggression against Syria" was a part of “an attempt to enter Damascus and cause mayhem before the meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow," but that "the attempted coup was aborted.”
Despite the threats made, both the Iranian sources and Assad were quoted by the paper as saying that they are "aware that Israel does not want war."
Assad went as far as saying Damascus chose not to response immediately to Israel's alleged attack for that very reason.
"Syria was easily able to satisfy its people and calm them and its allies down by firing a few rockets at Israel in response to the Israeli raid on Damascus," he was quoted as saying.
Instead, the Syrian president is interested in a different kind of response. "We want strategic revenge, by opening the door of resistance and turning the entire Syria into a resistance nation," Assad said, expressing his wishes to emulate Hezbollah who turned Lebanon into a "resistance nation."
"We began to feel that we and they [Hezbollah] are in a similar
situation," he said, stressing Hezbollah is more than just an ally that
helped Syrian against Israel.
The Syrian president expressed "very high confidence, great satisfaction
and appreciation toward Hezbollah" and promised to "give them
everything," according to Al-Akhbar.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday his forces would support any Syrian effort to recapture the Israeli Golan Heights, days after Israel reportedly launched raids in Syria believed to have targeted weapons destined for the Lebanese militant group.
"We announce that we stand with the Syrian popular resistance and offer material and spiritual support as well as coordination in order to liberate the Syrian Golan," he said in a televised speech.
In the days following the alleged Israeli strikes last Friday and Sunday, Syrian state news programs quoted unnamed sources saying that Damascus had given the green light to carry out operations against Israel from the Golan Heights after decades of calm on the border.
A Syrian deputy foreign minister claimed the country would "respond immediately" to any new Israeli strike following
the alleged attacks on military targets near Damascus last weekend, AFP
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," AFP
quoted Faisal Muqdad as saying.
In the report, Muqdad denied that the alleged Israeli air strike targeted weapons headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel did not comment on two strikes it allegedly conducted in Damascus on Friday and on Sunday morning, reportedly targeting weapons transfer sent by Iran and meant for Hezbollah.
Reuters contributed to this report.