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Syria says reserves right to retaliate after Israel raid

January 31, 2013

US officials said Israel launched a rare airstrike inside Syria on Wednesday. The target was a convoy believed to be carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran. -AP Photo

DAMASCUS: Syria on Thursday warned that it reserves the right to retaliate to what it says was an Israeli air strike on a military research centre near Damascus, as it lodged a complaint with the United Nations.

The foreign ministry said Israel “and the states that protect it at the UN Security Council” are responsible for the air strike, and “affirms Syria's right to defend itself and its territory and sovereignty,” the state news agency SANA reported.

The ministry called on “all the competent UN bodies to take the necessary steps given this grave Israeli violation, and to guarantee that it will not happen again.”

Although Israel and Syria are technically still at war, the ministry's official complaint evoked a 1974 disengagement agreement between the neighbours, SANA said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned Iqbal Singha, commander of the UN Observer Disengagement Observer Force... and informed him of an official protest over the Israeli violation of the disengagement agreement of 1974,” the ministry said.

Syria's ambassador to Beirut Ali Abdel Karim Ali, meanwhile, too stressed Syria'ss right to respond to “the Zionist aggression”, which Damascus' key regional allies Iran and Hezbollah have both condemned.

“The Israelis, and the United States behind them, along with their Arab and regional accomplices, realise that Syria, which defends its sovereignty and territory, may decide to respond by surprise to this aggression,” Ali told Lebanese website Al-Ahad, which is close to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

“It is up to the competent powers to choose the appropriate answer, and to determine the means and the place,” Ali added.

The ambassador also said the air strike unmasks “the link between the aggression and the war that has raged in Syria for two years”, referring to the revolt that broke out against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

The revolt morphed into an insurgency after the army unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent, but the Syrian authorities have repeatedly described it as a foreign-backed conspiracy against their country.

On Wednesday evening, the Syrian army said in a statement an Israeli air raid targeted a military research centre, killing two people.

In 2007, a bombing raid on an undeclared Syrian nuclear facility at Al-Kibar was widely understood to have been an Israeli strike, but it was never acknowledged by the Jewish state.