“If Israel attacks Syria one, two and three times, of course the people of Syria and the government of Syria and the army will react to defend ourselves," was Ambassador Mohsen Bilal’s clarification of recent statements that Syria had the right to defend itself.
 
Asked if that meant responding militarily, he said: "By all means. If Israel continues to attack us and continues its aggression of course we shall react to the attacks in spite of the fact that we are fighting for peace and wish to reopen the Madrid (peace) conference."

"Syria is not a superpower, but it is not a weak country too,” Bilal told Aljazeera, adding that Damascus stood by the "land for peace" principle established at the Madrid peace talks.

Israel launched its deepest strike into Syria for 30 years on Sunday attacking what is claimed was an Islamic Jihad training camp.

The raid came a day after a Palestinian resistance bomber from the Islamic Jihad group killed 19 people in a restaurant in the city of Haifa.

Asked if he was concerned about Israel's superior firepower, Bilal shook his head and said, "If Israel continues to attack us, what are we supposed to do? Tell them 'welcome'? Of course we will have to defend ourselves by all means."

He called on Israel to withdraw from all Arab occupied territories - "the Syrian Golan Heights, Palestinian occupied towns, and the rest of the occupied Southern Lebanon."

Bilal added: "Israel should recognise the Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, dismantle all establishments, and allow Palestinian refugees to return to their land."

Israel rejects statements 

Israel dismissed Syria’s response. "This sort of statement is intended mainly for the Arab world, to give the impression Syria is steadfast in the fight against Israel," a senior Israeli security source told Reuters, following the remarks by the envoy in Madrid.

Technically at war, Israel and Syria have had peace negotiations off and on since the launch of groundbreaking talks in Madrid 12 years ago. The last talks broke down in early 2000.