Syria has threatened to retaliate over what it says was an Israeli air raid, which risks taking the conflict beyond Syria’s borders, as Washington warned that Iran was stepping up support for Damascus.
Israel maintained a stony silence over Syria’s claims, as well as over separate reports that its jets had hit a weapons convoy near the Lebanese border.
Syria’s foreign ministry said Israel “and the states that protect it” are responsible for the airstrike, and “affirms Syria’s right to defend itself and its territory and sovereignty,” state news agency SANA reported.
It 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.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “grave concern” and called on all parties to “prevent tensions or their escalation in the region.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned on Thursday that Iran was stepping up its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The Iranians have made it clear for some time that keeping Assad in power was one of their highest priorities. We believe they have acted on that by sending in more personnel, not only to help Assad, but to support and advise military security forces,” Clinton said in Washington.
Clinton added that despite US efforts to bring Moscow on board to work for an international solution to the 22-month war in Syria that has claimed about 60,000 lives, Russia was continuing to prop up the regime.
“We have reason to believe that the Russians continue to supply financial and military assistance in the form of equipment to Assad,” she said
Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel Karim Ali stressed Syria’s right to respond to “the Zionist aggression.”
“The Israelis, and the United States behind them, along with their Arab and regional accomplices, realize that Syria, which defends its sovereignty and territory, may decide to respond by surprise to this aggression,” Ali said.
“It is up to the competent powers to choose the appropriate answer, and to determine the means and the place,” Ali added in remarks to Lebanese Web site Al-Ahad, which is close to the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah.
Reaction from close Damascus ally Iran was strident.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned, without elaborating, that the “Zionist regime’s attack on the outskirts of Damascus will have grave consequences for Tel Aviv,” the ISNA news agency reported.
In the past, Tehran has said any Israeli attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned,” but that it was still trying to verify Syria’s allegations.
Late on Wednesday, Syria accused Israel of launching a dawn strike on a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus.
The army denied separate reports citing security sources that an Israeli strike had targeted a weapons convoy from Syria near the border with Lebanon.
Israel has frequently warned that if Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons fell into Hezbollah hands, this would be a casus belli.
It has also raised the alarm over long-range Scud missiles or other advanced weaponry, such as anti-aircraft systems and surface-to-surface missiles, being transferred to Hezbollah.
Israeli officials and the military on Thursday refused to confirm or deny any involvement in the alleged attack.