'Israel threatened to attack Damascus'

J'lem reportedly said it would hold Syria accountable for any Hizbullah retaliation over Mughniyeh's death.

IAF jet 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IAF jet 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel has secretly warned Syria that it may strike the country if Hizbullah attacks the Jewish state, Reuters reported on Friday. In early February Hizbullah threatened Israel with revenge following the assassination of the group's chief of operations, Imad Mughniyeh. Israel has denied involvement in his death. According to senior Israeli and European officials quoted by the news agency, later that month Israel secretly conveyed a message to Damascus through a third party that it would hold it accountable for any Hizbullah assault. "The message was passed around late February, before the last round of fighting in Gaza," an Israeli official said. "It has become clear to us [that] Syria has to understand there is a price for its use of proxy terrorism, especially as Damascus is itself a proxy - the long-arm of Iran." A European source said the message made it clear that Syria could be targeted, even if Hizbullah attacked from Lebanese soil. The sources said Israel was mainly concerned that the terror organization would barrage the north with rockets in the event of a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile an unnamed British official told the news agency that any flare-up in the north would be "a disaster." "The death of Mughniyeh [and] the threatened Hizbullah retaliation does leave a specter of a wider regional conflict," he said, adding that Israeli-Syrian peace talks under the circumstances were unlikely. "There's an interest on both sides but I think it's very difficult to move forward on it."