Syria says Israel strike 'opens up options'; IDF closes northern airspace
Following emergency cabinet meeting, Information Minister Zoabi tells reporters in Damascus reported Israeli strikes on Syria made Middle East 'more dangerous,' prove Jewish state's links to rebel 'terror cells.' Egypt, Arab League also condemn airstrike, urge UN action. IDF closes civilian airspace in north
"The Israeli enemy exhibited gross aggression against Syria and used missiles to bomb military facilities in violation of all international laws," Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi told reporters Sunday following an emergency cabinet meeting on alleged Israeli airstrikes against three targets on the outskirts of Damascus earlier in the day.
"This aggression opens a door to all options," the minister said, adding that the alleged Israeli strikes against Syria have made the Middle East "more dangerous."
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The emergency cabinet meeting was organized to respond to what a Western source called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah. Sunday's attack was the third Israeli strike this year on Syrian soil.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Although Zoabi did not hint at a concrete course of action, he said it was Damascus's duty to protect the state from any "domestic or foreign attack through all available means."
The minister claimed Sunday's strike is evidence of Israel's links to rebel forces trying to topple President Bashar Assad's regime, including those with ties to al-Qaeda.
"This aggression showed the connection between the godless terror cells and the Israeli enemy," Zoabi told reporters in Damascus.
The minister focused on the Syrian army's "major achievements" in the war against the rebels.
'Syria won't abandon resistance.' Minister Zoabi (Photo: Reuters)
Asked whether Syria's decision not to retaliate to the alleged Israeli strikes portrays it as weak, Minister Zoabi said "this aggression isn't new, and is being performed by terror cells in Syria every day. We'll not accept a breach of our sovereignty and security."
"Whoever does such a thing should carefully examine the consequences and bear responsibility."
The minister said Syria would never abandon the path of the "resistance" – the Arab term for the armed struggle against Israel. Syria will not be the scapegoat, and it isn't weak. Whoever thinks that is mistaken and delusional," he said.
In light of the mounting tensions, the IDF has ordered the closure of Israel's civilian airspace in the northern region until Thursday. Arkia Airlines issued a statement saying it was forced to cancel all domestic flights on the Haifa-Eilat route.
In addition, the security alertness level in Israel's diplomatic missions and embassies across the world has been raised for fear of retaliation by Hezbollah.
Following the reports of a second Israeli strike into Syria within 48 hours, Israel raised its alert level for fear of possible reprisals by Assad's regime. As part of the defensive measures, two Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed in the Haifa and Safed areas.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen network, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, said the Shiite group and Syria have reached a decision to retaliate to the alleged Israeli attack. The network reported that Syria has deployed missiles aimed at Israel. the report could not be confirmed.
Israel declined to confirm the strike so as not to pressure Assad into serious retaliation, according to a confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Syria's revolt-turned-civil war has entered its third year and 70,000 people have been killed. Millions have been displaced and the conflict threatens to destabilize the entire region and draw in world powers who hope to influence the outcome.
Earlier Sunday, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the strike overnight represented a "declaration of war" by Israel.
Speaking to CNN the official claimed the alleged attack proved there was a link between Israel and the Syrian rebels engaged in violent combat with the forces supporting President Assad. He added Syria would respond in the manner and timing of its choosing.
Syria's Foreign Ministry said in a letter sent to the UN and its Security Council that the "Israeli aggression" killed and wounded several people and "caused widespread destruction."
The attacks aim "to give direct military support to terrorist groups" fighting the government," the letter said.
Egypt on Sunday condemned reported Israeli airstrikes on Syria, with the Arab League also demanding that the UN Security Council act to stop what it called "Israeli attacks" against the war-torn country.
The Egyptian presidency said in a statement the airstrikes "violated international law and principles that will further complicate the situation." The airstrikes reportedly targeted rockets destined for Lebanon's Hezbollah.
The Arab League, which like Egypt sides with rebels against President Assad, demanded the Security Council "act immediately to end Israeli attacks on Syria," which it described as a "dangerous violation of an Arab state's sovereignty."
Yoav Zitun, Sahar Chai, Reuters, AP, AFP contributed to the report
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