Syria’s foreign minister laid out a hard line Wednesday, warning that Syria would “retaliate immediately” if Israel strikes Syrian soil again. Earlier this month, Israeli warplanes reportedly twice struck near the Syrian capital, Damascus, targeting purported Iranian missiles intended for Assad’s ally, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
“We’ve declared to the world that we will retaliate immediately if Israel attacks again,” Walid al-Moallem said in an interview with the Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen. “Any aggression will be met with a response of a similar magnitude.”
He also insisted that Bashar Assad will remain Syria’s president at least until elections in 2014 and might run for another term, a statement that will make it difficult for Syria’s opposition to agree to UN-sponsored talks on ending Syria’s civil war.
Israel has warned Damascus that if Assad chooses to hit back at Israel for any further Israeli military strikes, Israel will bring down his regime. An Israeli official confirmed that a dramatic and unprecedented message to that effect had been conveyed to Damascus, Channel 2 news reported on May 15.
Syria vowed to respond “immediately and harshly” to any further Israeli airstrikes, after Israel carried out two early morning attacks on weapons consignments being stored in and around Damascus en route from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The shipments contained highly sophisticated Fateh-110 missiles.