Assad, Iran threaten retaliation • Erdogan slams Israel, even though J’lem supported Ankara’s response to Syrian shelling.
By HERB KEINON
The ambiguity over a purported Israeli strike in Syria last Wednesday began to lift Sunday, with Syrian President Bashar Assad directly blaming Israel and Defense Minister Ehud Barak indirectly taking responsibility.Assad accused Israel of trying to destabilize his country by attacking a military research base outside Damascus, and warning Syria could “confront threats... and aggression” against it.Syria’s state news agency SANA said Assad made the remarks in a meeting with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s national security council secretary, at a meeting in the Syrian capital. It was Assad’s first response to Wednesday’s attack.Barak, meanwhile, hinted in comments at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that Israel was behind the attack.“I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago,” he said. “But I keep telling frankly that we said – and that’s another proof when we say something, we mean it – we say that we don’t think [Syria] should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon, and Hezbollah, from Syria when Assad falls.”Barak also said that Hezbollah and the Iranians were Assad’s only remaining allies, adding that the beleaguered Syrian leader’s fall was “coming imminently,” and that it would be a major blow to both Iran and Hezbollah.SANA, meanwhile, quoted Jalili as reaffirming Tehran’s “full support for the Syrian people...Advertisementfacing the Zionist aggression, and its continued coordination to confront the conspiracies and foreign projects.”Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also warned Israel on Sunday of the consequences of the alleged strike.“The world is witnessing a vengeance carried out by the West, particularly the US, and some backward elements in the region against resistance,” he accused.Larijani called on countries in the region to distance themselves from Israel and said he believed “the Islamic awakening movement in the region would give a proper response to the Zionist regime.”Syria was even egged on by NATO ally Turkey, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemning the alleged Israeli strikes and labeling it “state terrorism.”“Those who have been treating Israel like a spoiled child should expect anything from them, at any time,” AFP quoted Erdogan as saying on Sunday.“As I say time and again, Israel has a mentality of waging state terrorism. Right now, there is no telling what it might do and where it might do it.”The Turkish prime minister said that “we cannot regard a violation of air space as acceptable,” and added “what Israel does is completely against international law...it is beyond condemnation.”Erdogan’s comments followed by a day Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressing disappointment that Syria has not taken action against Israel.“Why didn’t Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?” he was quoted as saying by the Turkish daily Hurriyet.“Why didn’t the Syrian Army, which has been attacking its own innocent people for 22 months now from the air with jets and by land with tanks and artillery fire, respond to Israel’s operation? Why can’t Assad, who gave order to fire SCUD missiles at Aleppo, do anything against Israel?” Davutoglu said, adding that Turkey would not stay unresponsive to an Israeli attack against any Muslim country.In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor tersely said, “These statements can be described in many ways, and diplomatic is not one of them.”Ironically, Palmor articulated support for Turkish military action against Syrian army positions in October following a cross-border mortar attack from Syria that killed five Turks in a city near the Syrian border.“Turkey’s reciprocation to Syria was right and justified according to international law,” Palmor was quoted widely at the time as saying in the Turkish press. “Surely the Turkish government has the right to take measures to protect its citizens and all others must respect Turkey’s decisions on the matter. We respect Turkey’s right to self-defense.”Reuters contributed to this report. •
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