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Middle east

Israel airstrikes ‘violate international law,’ Syria says

© AFP

Video by Solange MOUGIN

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-05

Syria on Sunday condemned the airstrikes carried out by Israel, which targeted a batch of Iranian-made missiles believed to be bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, as a 'violation of international law' that risked destabilising the region.

Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital on Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, officials and activists said.

The attack, the second in three days and the third this year, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research centre near Damascus and caused casualties.

'Israel is flexing its muscle - quite forcefully'

Syria's Foreign Ministry condemned the strikes, describing the attacks against its territory as a “flagrant violation of international law” that have made the Middle East "more dangerous."

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi claimed the Israeli strikes are evidence of the country’s links with Islamic extremist groups trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s regime, adding that Syria has the right and the duty "to defend its people by all available means."

Irris Makler, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said that Israel was exploiting the instability in Syria to prevent arms shipments from reaching Hezbollah.

"Pundits here say that it’s a game between Israel and Iran, fought on many fronts," Makler said. "Iran is sending arms into Syria and Israel is taking advantage of the weakness of the Syrian government to bomb these weapon shipments in Syria; I don’t think they could do it in Lebanon at the moment."

Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, condemned the airstrikes but gave no other hints of a possible stronger response from Tehran.

Meanwhile US President Barack Obama, speaking after the first reported attack on Saturday, 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.

The tempo of the new strikes added a dangerous dynamic to the conflict, fueling concerns that events could spin out of control and spark a regional crisis.

"Israel is attacking Iran through Syria"

Israel’s military on Sunday deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defence system to the north of the country. It described the move as part of "ongoing situational assessments."

A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an airstrike in the Syrian capital early Sunday but did not give more precise details about the location. The target was Fateh-110 missiles, which have precision guidance systems with better aim than anything Hezbollah is known to have in its arsenal, the official told The Associated Press.

Israel has said it wants to stay out of the Syrian war, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated the Jewish state would be prepared to take military action to prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hezbollah or other extremist groups.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-05-05

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