WASHINGTON - The White House on Thursday warned Syria
not to transfer weapons to Hezbollah, as tensions mounted following reported Israeli raids
on a military research center and a weapons convoy.
"Syria should not further destabilize the region by transferring weaponry to Hezbollah,"
said Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Israel
informed the US about the alleged attack on a convoy that was transporting SA-17 antiaircraft weapons to Hezbollah. Should these weapons reach the Shiite terror group, they could cut into Israel's ability to fly reconnaissance flights over Lebanon.
Israeli and American officials told The Times that the vehicles hit early Wednesday near the Syrian-Lebanese border were also carrying electronic equipment capable of disabling the GPS systems of drones.
|Footage allegedly showing Israeli jets over Syria|
Sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal reiterated the preliminary assertion that a shipment of antiaircraft missiles was bombed, even though Syria maintained that such accounts were wrong. Instead, Syria's military said, Israeli jets had attacked a military facility near Damascus.
Northern border following reports of alleged Israeli strike (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
But US officials told the WSJ the reports of two targets – the arms convoy and the military site – we're not mutually exclusive. The Hezbollah-bound trucks may have been close to a military facility, they said, cautioning their information is incomplete.
Syria said on Thursday Israel and it allies bore responsibility for the results of the Israeli air raid near Damascus and said it had the right to defend its sovereignty.
Route taken by IAF jets
"Syria holds Israel and those who are protecting it at the Security Council responsible for the results of the attack and confirms its right to defend its land and sovereignty," state television quoted a letter from the Foreign Ministry to the United Nations as say saying.
A number of countries, mainly from the Middle East, leveled harsh criticism at Israel following the reports of the alleged attack. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the Beirut-based pan-Arab TV station Al Mayadeen, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, that the "recent Israeli aggression against Syria is an insulting message to all Arabs and Muslims." He said Israel would not have dared to attack Syria had the Arabs been united.
"The Israeli entity is taking advantage of the Arab schism and the situation in Syria to carry out (this) aggression," he claimed. "The Arab countries must support Syria in its struggle against Israel and convey the message that the aggression hurt their honor."
Al-Maliki warned that the "Israeli entity may attack Egypt, Iraq, Iran
and other countries under the pretext of (attacking) research centers for the production of a nuclear bomb."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr also condemned the attack, saying "such an assault on Arab land is entirely rejected and represents a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law."
In a statement to the state-run news agency MENA on Thursday, Amr called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for attacks on Arab land, describing the airstrike as a danger to regional security and Middle Eastern sovereignty.
Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers in a demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel were unable to verify the Syrian complaint that Israeli planes had flown over the Golan Heights area, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.
"UNDOF (the peacekeeping mission) did not observe any planes flying over the area of separation and therefore was not able to confirm the incident. UNDOF also reported bad weather conditions," UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters.
Ban's press office said in a statement that the secretary-general "notes with grave concern reports of Israeli air strikes in Syria" and "calls on all concerned to prevent tensions or their escalation ... and to strictly abide by international law, in particular in respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region."
Roi Kais, AFP, Reuters, AP contributed to the report