Syria complains to U.N. of Israeli 'aggression' after reported airstrike
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Syria complained to the United Nations Tuesday about Israeli "aggression and violation of sovereignty" after what a U.S. official said was an airstrike deep in Syria that hit a target.
Syria reported the incursion on Thursday, saying Israeli aircraft flew over the northern part of the country and dropped munitions over an empty area after being fired on by Syrian anti-aircraft defenses.
A U.S. military official said Tuesday the incursion was an Israeli airstrike "deep into Syria" that hit a target. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was an intelligence issue, said he did not know the target.
The Syrian ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said the Israeli aircraft dropped munitions and fuel tanks to lighten their weight as they fled anti-aircraft fire.
"They were fleeing and in order to speed up the planes, they dropped the munitions," he told The Associated Press from New York.
Turkey has requested information from Israel about fuel tanks found near the Turkish border with Syria that allegedly were dropped by Israeli aircraft.
Warplanes sometimes drop extra fuel tanks to make the aircraft lighter and easier to maneuver.
Israel has remained silent over the incident. But military officials said Tuesday Israel is keeping troops along the Syrian border on high alert. The officials said there have been no signs that Syria is preparing for war after the alleged incident. Nonetheless, the army will remain on high alert over throughout upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday, which begins Wednesday.
There were no immediate details on the alert in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. But officials said the Israeli army on Monday carried out a previously scheduled military exercise in the Golan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Syria has called the incursion a "hostile act" but has been largely silent over the details.
Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said his government made its complaint in two letters to the U.N. secretary general and the president of the Security Council. The letters said the Israeli action was in violation of the 1974 disengagement agreement that was reached after the 1973 Mideast war.
The letters warned that "continuing to disregard denunciation of this act could result in consequences that no one knows its limits," according to al-Jaafari. He said Syria awaits a stand from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "that would hold Israel responsible and demands that it ceases" such acts.
Al-Jaafari said he had no further details on the incursion, but denied news reports Israeli troops had been inside Syria.
"This is absolutely not true," saying the reports were an attempt to show that Israel could land troops wherever it wants.
"Israel is seeking military escalation. We are exerting efforts so that we don't fall into this trap. We are dealing with the matter with utmost keenness, precision and responsibility," he added.
CNN reported Tuesday that the incident was an Israeli attack on Iranian weapons being transferred through Syria to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The report, citing U.S. government sources, said the operation involved warplanes and may have also involved ground forces that who directed the attacks or inspected the damage afterward.
Asked whether he could confirm an Israeli strike on an Iranian arms shipment, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "No. I think you should talk to the Syrian government or the Israeli government."
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war last summer after militants from the group crossed the border and abducted two Israeli soldiers, who have not been seen or heard from since.
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