Syria says Israeli attacks have escalated crisis

Syria says Israeli attacks have escalated crisis

Syria's government says Israeli strikes on military sites near Damascus over the weekend have opened the door "to all possibilities" and made the situation in the region "more dangerous".

President Bashar al-Assad's regime said Israeli air raids early on Sunday hit three military sites outside Damascus, the second such reported attack in 48 hours.

The raids reportedly targeted weapons bound for Lebanese group Hezbollah, and raised new concerns that the Syrian conflict could spill over.

A diplomatic source in Beirut told AFP the three sites were the Jamraya military facility, a nearby weapons depot, and an anti-aircraft unit in Sabura, west of the capital.

Syria's foreign ministry, in a letter to the UN Security Council, said claims it was transferring anything were "unfounded" and accused Israel of coordinating with "terrorist groups."

"Around 01:40am, Israeli military aircraft over the occupied territories and south Lebanon launched an aerial aggression by firing missiles against three positions belonging to the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic," the letter said.

"This aggression caused deaths and injuries and serious destruction at the sites and in the surrounding civilian regions," the letter added.

Syria uses the term "occupied territories" to refer to Israel and the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.

Residents of the Damascus neighbourhood of Dumar said Sunday's strike turned night into day.

"It was like an earthquake, the sky was yellow and red," said 72-year-old Najwa.

Syria's cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss the raids.

"The government of the Syrian Arab Republic confirms that this aggression opens the door wide to all possibilities," the cabinet said in a statement read by information minister Omran al-Zohbi.

"The international community should know that the complex situation in the region has become more dangerous after this aggression.

"[Syria] has not just a right but a duty to protect the homeland and the state and the people from any attack, whether internal or external, by all ways and means and capabilities available."

Syria blamed Israel for powerful explosions that targeted a military research facility on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Saturday.

The foreign ministry accused Israel of coordinating with "terrorist groups" including the Al-Nusra Front rebel group that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda.

"This leaves no doubt that Israel is the beneficiary, the engine and sometimes the executor of the terrorist attacks taking place in Syria against the state and the people," the letter to the Security Council said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports.

Meanwhile, Egypt on Sunday condemned Israeli air strikes on Syria, with the Arab League also demanding that the UN Security Council act to stop what it called "Israeli attacks" against the war-torn country.

The Egyptian presidency said in a statement the air strikes "violated international law and principles that will further complicate the situation."

The presidency in Cairo affirmed "its extreme opposition" to the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on rebel-held areas, but accused Israel of "exploiting its internal conflict".

The Arab League, which like Egypt sides with rebels against Mr Assad, demanded the Security Council "act immediately to end Israeli attacks on Syria," which it called a "dangerous violation of an Arab state's sovereignty".

US president Barack Obama, speaking after the first reported attack, said Israel was justified in protecting itself.

"The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organisations like Hezbollah," he said, without commenting directly on the strike.

"We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognising that they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon."

The rebel Free Syrian Army reacted cautiously, saying the country was already under daily attack by regime aircraft, while the opposition National Coalition said Israel had "taken advantage" of the conflict.



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