Assad rebukes Israel over airstrike
Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, accuses Israel of trying to destabilise his country, following an airstrike last week.PT0M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dt0z 620 349 February 4, 2013
ISRAEL is said to be considering further attacks in Syria and Lebanon following the air strikes on a weapons convoy this week, and on Friday claimed ''the entire axis of evil is coming apart''.
Officials said that the risks of military action to prevent Lebanese militia Hezbollah obtaining sophisticated weapons outweighed the threats of a response from either Syria or Iran.
Israel moved a third battery of its Iron Dome protective missile system up to the border with Lebanon to prepare for any retaliation from Hezbollah, following its reported attack on what it claimed were anti-aircraft missiles being supplied to the militant group by Syria.
On alert … Lebanese military vehicles near the village of Arsal close to the Syrian border, where two soldiers died in a clash on Friday. Photo: AFP
Lebanese government security officials said Israeli jets resumed flights near the Syrian border on Friday while an Israeli analyst confirmed further cross-border strikes were likely.
The deputy director of Israel's Institute of National Security Studies and a retired intelligence colonel, Ephraim Kam, said the risks posed by Iran-allied militants such as Hezbollah and Hamas getting their hands on some of Syria's chemical and advanced weaponry were considered far greater than the threat of retaliation.
''If tomorrow the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] sees the movement of this weaponry, it will and should strike again,'' he said on Friday. ''This week's attack was a kind of warning: 'We are ready and prepared to do this.'
''Syria has warned that it might retaliate. Iran has said that attacking Syria is attacking Iran. But neither will respond. Although we have to be careful not to rule the possibility out all together, the last thing the Syrian regime needs is to enter a war with Israel when it is struggling to survive domestically.''
Israel has refused to admit the attack on the convoy on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. But its military was upbeat about the consequences, predicting that both Syria and Hezbollah were too weak to carry out their threats.
The deputy commander of Israel's northern command, Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven, said despite the Iron Dome redeployments, he believed Israel's enemies to its north were toothless.
''The likelihood of a response in the short term is very low,'' he said. ''The Syrians are weak, they are in distress. Hezbollah is in distress. The entire axis of evil is coming apart.''
On her last day as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran had increased the number and quality of weapons it was sending to Syria's President, Bashar al-Assad, underscoring a serious challenge facing her successor, John Kerry. Iran was also aiding Hezbollah.
''We know the Iranians are all-in for Assad'' and that keeping their closest ally in the Middle East in power ''is one of their highest priorities'', she said.
As tension between Israel and Syria remained high, the Syrian opposition has announced it is ready for exploratory peace talks after getting United Nations backing for its position that Mr Assad ''would have no role'' in a transitional government.
Telegraph London, Bloomberg, GN&M