DAMASCUS — Russia warned Jan. 31 that any airstrike against its ally Syria would be “unacceptable” as Israel maintained a strict silence on claims it had bombed Syrian targets.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” after Damascus claimed a military research center came under Israeli fighter jet attack at dawn Jan. 30.
“If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification,” said a statement in Moscow.
The foreign minister of Syrian neighbor Iran, another close Damascus ally, characterized the alleged attack as a “brutal aggression” against the country. Ali Akbar Salehi claimed it was part of a “Western and Zionist strategy to push aside the success of the Syrian people and government to return to stability and security.”
The strident Russian comment came after Syria accused Israel of launching a strike on a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus.
“Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace ... and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the army general command said.
The warplanes entered Syria’s airspace at low altitude and under the radar, the army said, adding that two site workers were killed.
“They ... carried out an act of aggression, bombarding the site, causing large-scale material damage and destroying the building,” state television quoted the military as saying.
Residents told AFP that six rockets hit the complex, partially destroying it, causing a fire and killing two people.
Meanwhile, the army denied separate reports from security sources that an Israeli air 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 the hands of the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it would be a casus belli.
Israel 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, against which it fought a devastating war in 2006.
Israeli officials and the military refused to confirm or deny Jan. 31 any involvement in the alleged attack and had no comment on the reports that its warplanes had struck the weapons convoy along the Syria-Lebanon border.
Commentators said the modus operandi was similar to a 2007 bombing raid on an undeclared Syrian nuclear facility at Al-Kibar, widely understood to be an Israeli strike but never acknowledged by the Jewish state.
The United States, which is currently hosting Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi, also declined to comment
Hezbollah, in a statement from its Beirut headquarters, denounced “a new Zionist aggression” and said it exposed the true origins of the bloody conflict in Syria.
The group said the attack “fully unmasked what has been happening in Syria over the past two years and the criminal objectives of destroying this country and weakening its army.”
The strike took place just days after Israel moved two batteries of its vaunted Iron Dome missile defense system to the north.
On the political front, Syria’s main opposition group was to meet Jan. 31 in Cairo, a day after a surprise statement from its chief that he was willing to hold talks with regime officials, a Syrian National Coalition member said.
“This meeting was organized well before the Syrian National Coalition leader, Moaz al-Khatib, made his statement,” SNC member Samir Nashar told AFP.
Khatib announced on Facebook on Jan. 30 that he was “ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul.” H
e laid down as conditions the release of “160,000 detainees” and that the passports of exiled citizens be renewed in embassies abroad.
On the battlefront in Syria on Jan. 31, fierce clashes raged between soldiers and rebel fighters on the southern outskirts of Damascus as army tanks pounded the area, a watchdog group said. The United Nations says more than 60,000 people have died in the country’s 22-month conflict.