Damascus, Oct. 11 (Reuters): Syria has the right to exercise self-defence if Israel strikes its territory again as its warplanes did last weekend, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said today.
Israel responded immediately, saying states harbouring terrorists were “legitimate targets”.
“In case of a repetition (of an Israeli attack) Syria has the right to exercise self-defence,” spokeswoman Bushra Kanafani told a press briefing in Damascus.
Israel carried out an airstrike last Sunday against what it said was a training camp for “terror groups” after a suicide bombing in Haifa in northern Israel that killed 20 people. The Islamic Jihad movement said it was behind the attack.
“Israel views every state which is harbouring terrorist organisations and the leaders of those terrorist organisations who are attacking innocent citizens of the state of Israel as legitimate targets out of self defence,” Gideon Meir, a top foreign ministry spokesman said today in response to the Syrian comments.
“A state harbouring terrorist organisations who are attacking innocent civilians, which does not belong to the civilised family of nations, has no right to make comments about issues of self-defence.” He said such states were legitimate targets “to protect its citizens from horrifying terrorist attacks like the Israeli people experienced in a Haifa restaurant last Saturday.”
Syria said the air raid was on a civilian area and that the offices of Palestinian factions in Syria only have media functions.
It denies links to “terrorist groups” but says there is a difference between terrorism and legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation.
It has demanded the UN Security Council condemn Israel for the attack, the deepest air raid into Syria by the Jewish state in 30 years. Washington has said Syria must stop “harbouring terrorists”, but urged both Israel and Syria to avoid actions that could inflame tensions.
US stands to lose
Syria warned today that the US had most to lose from severing trade and diplomatic ties with the Arab state if Washington passed a proposed act to impose sanctions.
Kanafani said Syrian-US ties were at their lowest point ever because of the proposed Syria Accountability Act. “Contacts (with Washington) are not severed fully, but the state of Syrian-US ties has deteriorated to a point it never reached before,” she said in Damascus.