As another round of peace talks ends in deadlock, we discuss the reasons behind the military and political stalemate.
Syria has called for UN sanctions against Israel over alleged air strikes on Syrian soil, including one on Damascus’ main international airport.
There was no threat of retaliation, but the Syrian Foreign Ministry said on Monday it had asked Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, and the Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, describing Sunday’s alleged attack as “a heinous crime against Syria’s sovereignty”.
Israel has said it will not allow “sophisticated weapons” to fall into the hands of its enemies.
It has refused to confirm or deny the reports of the attack, but its forces have previously targeted weapons allegedly destined for Lebanon’s armed Shia group Hezbollah, an ally of Syria.
The Syrian army said air strikes by “the Israeli enemy” targeted two areas near Damascus, including Damascus international airport, which is used by both civilian and military aircraft.
It said the attack caused damage but that nobody was hurt.
“This direct aggression by Israel was carried out to help the terrorists in Syria,” the Syrian army said, using the Bashar al-Assad government’s collective term to describe peaceful opponents, armed rebels and self-declared jihadists fighting in Syria.
‘Act of aggression’
The Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers, speaking jointly in Tehran on Monday, described the latest developments as an act of aggression.
Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, who is in the Iranian capital to take part in a two-day conference on violence and extremism, also accused Israel of trying to compensate for losses incurred by rebels in Syria at the hands of the Syrian army.
Russia too demanded an explanation from Israel.
Alexander Lukashevich, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said Russia “is deeply concerned about this dangerous development which requires a detailed investigation”.
In a statement, he said that the use of force is “unacceptable in international relations and deserves an outright condemnation”.
Russia, along with Iran, is the Syrian government’s chief international ally, and has been trying to convene a conference bringing Syria’s warring sides together in Moscow for a dialogue.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, the two sites allegedly targeted on Sunday were used for military purposes.
“Both were military sites, and weapons were being stored there,” Rami Abdel Rahman, Syrian Observatory’s director, told AFP.
There was little doubt on Monday among commentators in Israel that the country’s fighter jets carried out the attacks.
“There must have been a brief window of opportunity yesterday and the decision to strike was taken,” Israeli army radio said on Monday.
Previous air strikes
Israel has launched raids reportedly targeting Iranian rockets bound for Hezbollah, including a shipment of Fateh-110 in May 2013.
One attack according to Syria occurred in the Quneitra region of the Golan Heights in March that killed a soldier.
Asked about the Syrian accusations on public radio on Monday, Yuval Steinitz, Syria’s intelligence minister, refused to comment directly but stressed his country’s policy of preventing arms transfers to armed groups.
“We have a firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organisations,” Steinitz said, in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
Some Israeli opposition figures raised questions about the timing of the raids, which came after Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, called early elections.
Netanyahu is looking to shore up his support on the right before primaries for his Likud party and the snap vote in March.
“I hope this isn’t the opening salvo of the campaign for the Likud primaries and the next elections,” Ilan Gilon of the Meretz party said.