Russia and Syria’s allies — Iran and Hizbollah — have called Wednesday’s Israeli airstrike on Syrian soil a violation of the United Nations charter and an expression of a policy of denying technology to Muslim countries.
The Syrian military command confirmed that Israeli warplanes targeted a military research centre in Jamraya in rural Damascus. “Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today [Wednesday] and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defence,” the state-run SANA news agency quoted an army statement as saying.
Lebanese television station al-Manar, affiliated to the Hizbollah, said four fighter jets flew low over Al Sheikh Mountain to evade radar cover. They fired nine rockets that damaged the centre and a nearby building. Two workers were killed and nine wounded.
The Russian Foreign Ministry could hardly conceal its fury. The Ministry’s website said if the assault by Israeli warplanes was confirmed, it meant unprovoked attacks on the territory of a sovereign state — which was not admissible, whatever the justification. The Ministry called the attack a “blatant act of aggression”. Russian diplomats were taking urgent measures to clarify the situation and to establish the details of the incident, the Ministry added.
The attack marks Israel’s first direct military intervention in the Syrian crisis and threatens expansion of the conflict.
Separately, Hizbollah said the research centre was targeted to cripple Syrian military capabilities. The group’s statement, evoking the perception of a clash among religions, added that the attack was part of Israel’s policy to prevent “any Arab and Muslim state from developing its technological and military capabilities”.
Iran, a top ally of Syria and Hizbollah also condemned the attack, which, in its view, showed that Israel and “foreign-sponsored rebels” were collaborating with each other.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to adopt “effective and practical measures against the attack. “Parties that have always taken tough stances on Syria should now take serious measures and decisive positions on this invasion by Tel Aviv and place regional security high on their list of priorities,” said Mr. Amir-Abdollahian. He also pointed to Israel’s military vulnerability that had not gone unnoticed during the November Gaza war, when limitations of its Patriot anti-missile defence systems were exposed.
Contrary to the pro-government narrative from Syria’s allies, anonymous officials in the United States said Israeli jets had targeted a convoy carrying Syrian weapons to Hizbollah.
Going beyond the military action, Russia has reiterated the need for energetic diplomacy to make last year’s Geneva agreements work. The Geneva plan supported an internal inter-Syria dialogue, without raising the precondition that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must quit.