A member of the Syrian Ba'ath national council Halef al-Muftah, until recently the Syrian propaganda minister's aide, said on Monday that Damascus views Israel
as "behind the aggression and therefore it will come under fire" should Syria
be attacked by the United States.
In an interview for the American radio station Sawa in Arabic, President Bashar Assad's
fellow party member said: "We have strategic weapons and we can retaliate. Essentially, the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel."
Al-Muftah stressed that the US's threats will not influence the Syrain regime and added that "If the US or Israel err through aggression and exploit the chemical issue, the region will go up in endless flames, affecting not only the area's security, but the world's."
Earlier this week the Syrian top official said that an attack of this kind will expand the circle of hostilities beyond Syria. According to him, it may bring about a world-war, the extent of which cannot be foretold.
Talking to the Arabic-language Iranian
channel al-Alam, al-Muftah said that the US is unable to attack Syria since Syria's retaliatory capabilities are well-known, and will be directed at Israel – according to him, the entity which pulls the Americans strings.
At the same time, another senior Syrian official, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, issued similar statements in an interview for AP, saying that his country will defend itself against any international attack.
He added that strikes against Syria would trigger "chaos" and threaten worldwide peace and security.
He said a UN team in Damascus currently investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons should be allowed to do its work, before the world makes any judgment.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
said Monday the Obama administration was studying intelligence on Syria's purported use of chemical weapons and "will get the facts" before acting.
Speaking with reporters after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Hagel said, "We are analyzing the intelligence and we will get the facts and if there is any action taken it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of a legal justification."
On Monday afternoon UN inspectors arrived at the Damascus suburb were the chemical attack allegedly occurred, and examined the bodies of the disease for evidence of the banned weapons.
UN inspectors near Damascus
Dead children after Damascus chemical attack (Photo: Reuters)
"I am with the team now," the doctor who uses the name Abu Karam told Reuters by telephone from rebel-held Mouadamiya.
"We are in the Rawda mosque and they are meeting with the wounded. Our medics and the inspectors are talking to the patients and taking samples from the victims now."
Also Monday, the German government suggested for the first time that it would support an international military response if it is confirmed that Assad's troops attacked opponents with chemical weapons.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that if UN inspectors confirm the use of chemical weapons, "it must be punished."
warned Western powers against any military intervention in Syria, saying the use of force without a UN mandate would be a grave violation of international law.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had no plans to be drawn into a military conflict over the civil war in Syria and that Washington and its allies would be repeating "past mistakes" if they intervened in Syria.
"The use of force without the approval of the United Nations Security Council is a very grave violation of international law," Lavrov told a news conference at which he discussed accusations by rebel forces that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons.
Russia is Syrian President Bashar Assad's key ally and one of its main arms suppliers, and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council.
Expressing concern about statements suggesting NATO had the right to intervene after a chemical attack without securing the approval of the United Nations, Lavrov said the unapproved use of force would "sharply aggravate" the situation.
He urged the West not to go down the "dangerous path" it had taken several times before and added: "We have no plans to go to war with anyone."
"If anybody thinks that bombing and destroying the Syrian military infrastructure, and leaving the battlefield for the opponents of the regime to win, would end everything - that is an illusion," Lavrov said.
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