Syria will retaliate for Israeli airstrikes on its territory at the time and place of its choosing, a Syrian government minister told an Israeli-Arab newspaper on Tuesday.
Speaking to As-Sonara, a Nazareth-based publication, Reconciliation Affairs Minister Ali Haidar said that his country’s political leadership has decided to respond to “the Israeli aggression against Syria.” The decision on the time and place of the Syrian response has been handed over to the military leadership, he said.
“This is not the first attack from Israeli positions on positions of the Syrian army in the Golan,” Haidar said. “From my place in the Syrian government, I declare that what has happened in the past and what happened today has destroyed any ceasefire [with Israel]. The ceasefire is behind us, and we can now consider ourselves in an open state of confrontation with the Israeli enemy.”
Haidar’s comments broke the Syrian government silence following a series of Israeli airstrikes early Monday morning against Syrian army positions on the Golan Heights, in retaliation for a cross-border missile attack which left one Israeli teenager dead and three adults injured on Sunday. Mohammed Karkara, 15, became the first Israeli casualty on the border since the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Syrian government reported four dead and nine injured as a result of the Israeli attacks, but did not vow retaliation.
Haidar’s comments were not the first time the Syrian government has vowed to retaliate against alleged Israeli attacks.
Following a February 2013 airstrike against a Syrian convoy believed to be delivering advanced weapons to Hezbollah (or, according to another account, against a scientific research center), Syrian President Bashar Assad said his military was capable of confronting any “aggression.” In May 2013, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem promised to retaliate immediately to any Israeli attack on Syrian soil.
“We’ve declared to the world that we will retaliate immediately if Israel attacks again,” Moallem said in an interview with the Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen at the time. “Any aggression will be met with a response of a similar magnitude.”
But Haidar said the Syrian response would not necessarily come immediately, nor would it necessarily target the Israeli Golan Heights.
“Our response is not based on action and reaction, but on a more effective action than the attack itself. Hence, it could come at a time and place chosen by [Syria],” Haidar said.
In a letter sent to the UN on Sunday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry accused Israel of collaborating with “armed terrorist groups” present in the buffer zone between the two countries, a term used by the Assad regime to denote anti-regime forces active in the area.