Embattled President Bashar al-Assad accused Israel on Sunday of trying to destabilize Syria following reported attacks on a weapons convoy and a military research base outside Damascus last week.
Assad vowed that his regime will retaliate as his allies rushed to denounce the strike which threatened to take the conflict beyond Syria’s borders.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said Assad made the remarks in a meeting with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s national security council secretary, at a meeting in the Syrian capital. It was Assad’s first reported response to Wednesday’s attack.
Syria’s foreign ministry had said Israel “and the states that protect it” are responsible for the air strike, and “affirms Syria’s right to defend itself and its territory and sovereignty,” state news agency SANA reported.
It called on “all the competent UN bodies to take the necessary steps given this grave Israeli violation, and to guarantee that it will not happen again.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed “grave concern” and called on all parties to “prevent tensions or their escalation in the region.”
He called on all sides to “strictly abide by international law, in particular in respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region,” deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.
Damascus’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, stressed Syria’s right to respond to “the Zionist aggression.”
“The Israelis, and the United States behind them, along with their Arab and regional accomplices, realize that Syria, which defends its sovereignty and territory, may decide to respond by surprise to this aggression.”
“It is up to the competent powers to choose the appropriate answer, and to determine the means and the place,” Ali added in remarks to Lebanese website Al-Ahad, which is close to the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah.
Reaction from close Damascus ally Iran was strident.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned, without elaborating, that the “Zionist regime’s attack on the outskirts of Damascus will have grave consequences for Tel Aviv,” the ISNA news agency reported.
In the past, Tehran has said any Israeli attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” but was still trying to verify Syria’s allegations.
“If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification,” it said.