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Syria protests over Israel air strike

Syria protests over Israel air strikes on its territory and threatens ‘surprise’ revenge.

Syrian flag. Picture: AFP

BEIRUT/AMMAN - Syria protested to the United Nations on Thursday over an Israeli air strike on its territory and warned of a possible "surprise" response.

The foreign ministry summoned the head of the UN force in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to deliver the protest a day after Israel hit what Syria said was a military research centre and diplomats said was a weapons convoy heading for Lebanon.

"Syria holds Israel and those who protect it in the Security Council fully responsible for the results of this aggression and affirms its right to defend itself, its land and sovereignty," Syrian television quoted it as saying.

The ministry said it considered Wednesday's Israeli attack to be a violation of a 1974 military disengagement agreement which followed their last major war, and demanded the UN Security Council condemn it unequivocally.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "grave concern". "The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to prevent tensions or their escalation," his office said, adding that international law and sovereignty should be respected.

Israel has maintained total silence over the attack, as it did in 2007 when it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site - an attack which passed without Syrian military retaliation.

In Beirut on Thursday Syria's ambassador said Damascus could take "a surprise decision to respond to the aggression of the Israeli warplanes". He gave no details but said Syria was "defending its sovereignty and its land".

Diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources said Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border on Wednesday, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah. Syria denied the reports, saying the target was a military research centre northwest of Damascus and 8 miles (13 km) from the border.

Hezbollah, which has supported Assad as he battles an armed uprising in which 60,000 people have been killed, said Israel was trying to thwart Arab military power and vowed to stand by its ally.

"Hezbollah expresses its full solidarity with Syria's leadership, army and people," said the group which fought an inconclusive 34-day war with Israel in 2006.

Russia, which has blocked Western efforts to put pressure on Syria at the United Nations, said any Israeli air strike would amount to unacceptable military interference.

"If this information is confirmed, we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives," Russia's foreign ministry said.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian said the attack "demonstrates the shared goals of terrorists and the Zionist regime", Fars news agency reported. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad portrays the rebels fighting him as foreign-backed, Islamist terrorists, with the same agenda as Israel.

An aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday Iran would consider any attack on Syria as an attack on itself.

In battle-torn Damascus, residents doubted Syria would fight back. One mother of five said she had heard retaliation would come later. "They always say that. They'll retaliate, but later, not now. Always later," she said, and laughed.

"The last thing we need now is Israeli fighter jets to add to our daily routine. As if we don't have enough noise and firing keeping us awake at night."

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