Iran condemns Israeli air strikes in Syria

Tehran: Iran on Friday supported Syria’s “right to defend itself” after Israel launched strikes on what it said was Iranian military infrastructure inside Syria.

In the first comments by Iran since Thursday’s wave of strikes, the Foreign Ministry condemned the “blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty”, Press TV reported.

“The Zionist regime’s repeated attacks on Syrian soil under self-proclaimed, baseless pretexts amount to a blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and goes against all international conventions,” the Ministry’s spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

“Israel cannot stand peace and stability in the region and sees its own safety in making the region all the more unstable.”

Qasemi said the attacks were an attempt by international supporters of rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to shore them up after their “many failures” and to try to “tip the scales in their favour”.

The strikes were the heaviest carried out by Israel on Syria in decades, said a BBC report.

They came after 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel claimed that Iranian fighters had carried out that attack. Iran has neither directly confirmed or denied the allegation.

Iran has deployed hundreds of troops in Syria, apparently as military advisers to the Syrian military. Thousands of militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran have also been battling rebel forces alongside Syrian soldiers, reports say.

On Thursday, in response to the Golan Heights attack, Israel said its fighter jets had struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria — some 70 targets — in its biggest assault since Syria’s civil war started in 2011.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said that Iran had “crossed a red line” and Israel’s action “was a consequence” of that.

“We will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria. I delivered a clear message to the Assad regime, our action is directed against Iranian targets in Syria. However, if the Syrian military acts against us, we will act against it,” he said.

Visiting the Golan Heights on Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged Assad to “throw the Iranians out”, saying “they are only hurting you”.

Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, called for a UN condemnation of Iran’s “acts of aggression” and for the Security Council to “demand that Iran remove its military presence from Syria”.