Egypt, others bash Israel over reported Syrian strikes

Lebanon and Arab League also voice fierce opposition to reported attacks and call on UN to prevent further violence

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (with beard) at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, September 5 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (with beard) at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, September 5 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

Israel’s reported airstrikes against Syria over the last three days drew condemnations across the Middle East Sunday, including from leaders who have been harshly critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Egypt, Lebanon, and the Arab League, amongst others, called on the international community to take steps to prevent further attacks. The across-the-board condemnations emphasized Israel’s “aggression” and stressed disapproval at Jerusalem’s lack of respect for the war-torn country’s sovereignty.

“Egypt condemns the Israeli attack on Syria, which is considered a violation against international principles and laws complicating the current situation in Syria and threatening the security and stability of the region,” read an official statement issued by the Egyptian government.

Israeli planes reportedly struck sites outside Damascus early Friday and again early Sunday, targeting weapons transfers from Iran to Hezbollah, according to unnamed Israeli and American sources.

The statement from Cairo stressed that, although the Egyptian government sides with those rebelling against Assad, it “strongly rejects any aggression against Syrian capacities, tampering with its sovereignty and taking advantage of its internal crisis under any pretext.”

“Israel’s aggression, obvious to the whole world, puts the international community, primarily the United Nations, to the test regarding its commitment to the rules of international law. Egypt calls on all states to take responsibility in confronting recurrent Israeli transgressions and in maintaining international peace and security,” the statement concluded.

The Arab League, which only recently presented a new plan to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, called on Sunday for the UN Security Council to “act immediately” and end Israeli attacks on Syria.

The airstrikes, according to a press release by Arab League representatives, constitute a “dangerous violation of an Arab state’s sovereignty.”

To the north of Israel, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Sunday called Israel’s reported actions an act of “aggression” and said the Jewish state’s airstrikes were similar to attacks carried out against his own country in the past.

“This act is not unusual for a mutual enemy whose policy is based on aggression that takes advantage of the circumstances Syria is going through to carry out its aggression just as it used to do in Lebanon during its days of crisis,” said Sleiman, according to a translation by the Lebanese news site The Daily Star.

Sleiman further called on the international community, as well as the UN Security Council, to discourage Israel from using “its aggressive policy” and respect other countries’ sovereignty, the Lebanese publication reported.

Iran on Sunday denied that the Israeli attack was aimed at its missiles destined for Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, according to the Islamic regime’s Press TV, and Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called on countries in the region to stand united against Israel.

Also Sunday, Iranian army ground forces commander Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said Tehran was ready to support Syria and offer it aid in case of further Israeli strikes.

“Syria has a powerful army and with the structure and experience it has against the Zionist regime, it can definitely defend itself and there is no need for intervention by other countries,” said Pourdastan, according to the Iranian Fars News Network. “But, if they do need training, we can help them,” he added.

In Syria itself, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned that recent Israeli airstrikes on facilities near Damascus constituted an Israeli “declaration of war.”

Mekdad’s comments prompted concern in Israel about a possible escalation of hostilities between Israel and Syria, and Israel was said to be braced for all possibilities. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still headed to China for four days on Sunday night, in what was partly a demonstrative desire to play down the likelihood of escalation.

The Foreign Ministry in Damascus stated in a letter to the United Nations that the strikes “killed and wounded several people.”

Mekdad had also asserted that the attacks reflected an alliance between Islamic terrorists fighting against Assad’s regime and Israel, and warned that Syria would retaliate if and when it sees fit.

Apparently bracing for possible retaliation, Israel deployed two Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the north of the country on Sunday morning.

One Iron Dome battery was deployed in Safed and the other in Haifa. The Iron Dome system has proved highly effective in stopping short-range rocket fire, intercepting 84 percent of the incoming rockets from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense last November.

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