MUNICH (AP) — Israel's defense minister made his country's first public comments Sunday on an airstrike in Syria, suggesting that Israel had been behind the attack.
U.S. officials have said the attack hit a convoy of anti-aircraft weapons inside Syria bound for the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group but Israel hasn't publicly acknowledged the airstrike.
In the days ahead of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials repeatedly warned of the dangers of Syrian weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah and other hostile elements in the region.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak brought the issue up at a gathering of the world's top diplomats and defense officials in Germany, initially saying: "I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago."
But, addressing the audience in English, he then added: "I keep telling frankly that we said — and that's proof when we said something we mean it— we say that we don't think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon."
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that if Syria were to disintegrate, President Bashar Assad could lose control of his chemical weapons and other arms.
The Syrian military said the target of Israeli jets was a scientific research center. The facility is in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus.
Purported images of the targeted site, aired by Syrian state television on Saturday, show destroyed cars, trucks and military vehicles. A building has broken widows and damaged interiors, but no major structural damage.
Following the attack, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, said Damascus "has the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation," but that it was up to the relevant authorities to choose the time and place.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed Assad for not responding to the airstrike, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to the Jewish State.
On Saturday night, Netanyahu, who is in the process of forming a new ruling coalition, said his new government would have to deal with weapons "being stockpiled near us and threatening our cities and civilians" — an apparent reference to the deteriorating situation in Syria.
Barak said "Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left."
He said in his view Assad's fall "is coming imminently" and when it happens, "this will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah."
"I think that they will pay the price," he said.
Josef Federman contributed to this report from Jerusalem
- Politics & Government
- Unrest, Conflicts & War