Hizbullah: IAF mission practice for Iran

Group's leaders say alleged foray over Syria was preparation for larger aerial operation.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, AP
September 11, 2007 00:51
2 minute read.
Hizbullah: IAF mission practice for Iran

syria 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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As Israel continues to keep completely quiet over allegations of an IAF foray into Syrian airspace last Thursday, Hizbullah leaders on Monday joined those speculating about the mission, saying it was a practice IAF run to see whether Israel could penetrate into Iran. Channel 2 reported Monday evening that Hizbullah leaders said Israel was testing flight routes into Iran. Hizbullah's claims came as Syria's protests over the alleged violation of its airspace moved to Ankara on Monday, with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan calling the discovery of fuel tanks allegedly dropped by IAF planes on the Turkish side of the border "unacceptable." "All countries in the region must show respect to all countries' sovereignty and carefully avoid acts that lead to tensions," Babacan said during a joint news conference with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem. "Otherwise, tensions would be fueled, and peace and stability in the region might be harmed." Turkey had demanded a prompt clarification from Israel and was still waiting for a response, Babacan said. His words have led to some speculation that Turkey was taking high-profile issue with Israel over this matter out of fear that Turkey might be blamed for letting Israel use its airspace if Jerusalem decides to launch an attack at some future date against Iranian nuclear facilities. At the press conference, Moallem accused Israel of "an intentional and hostile act," and said Israel "dropped bombs over Syria, they dropped fuel tanks on Syrian soil." The IAF foray over Syria "contradicts Israel's claim that it wants peace," Moallem was quoted Monday as telling EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana after the alleged flyover. Hours before the reported incident, Moallem met Solana in Cairo and the EU foreign policy chief said that he had received assurances from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel would reduce its forces on the Golan Heights, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported. Moallem said Sunday that his country would submit a complaint to the UN Security Council over Thursday's alleged flyover. However, in a speech he delivered to foreign diplomats in Damascus, Moallem expressed concern that "the UNSC will act with double standards," and that "since it backs Israel, it will not condemn it." Also on Monday, Balad MK Said Nafa, who defied a ban on travel to Syria, criticized Israel for the reported overflight. Nafa, heading a delegation of Druse clerics, spoke to reporters in Damascus after meeting Syrian Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa. Nafa said Syria's announcement of the reported Israeli violation aimed to send Israel a message, "Don't play with fire and try to heat up the region."

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