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Syria

Israeli airstrikes on Syria bring swift and strong reactions

International reaction to Israel's latest airstrikes on Syria has been quick to come. However, there are differing accounts of the objective of the attacks.

Syria's Cabinet held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss what the Foreign Ministry described as at least three Israeli airstrikes on military sites the previous night.

In a differing account of the targets, a senior Israeli source cited by the AFP news agency said the attacks early on Sunday hit Iranian weapons destined for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is allied with Syria's regime.

Following the Cabinet meeting in Damascus, Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi (pictured above) read a report to a news conference: "The government of the Syrian Arab Republic confirms that this aggression opens the door wide to all possibilities," he read. "The international community should know that the complex situation in the region has become more dangerous after this aggression."

Syria "has not just a right but a duty to protect the homeland and the state and the people from any attack, whether internal or external, by all ways and means and capabilities available," al-Zohbi read from the Cabinet report.

US President Barack Obama, speaking after the first reported attack this week but before Sunday's strikes, said the country had the right to protect itself: "The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organisations like Hezbollah," he said, without commenting directly on the strike. "We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognizing that they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon."

Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi commented on the Israeli strikes: "This is a blatant aggression and a serious violation of an Arab country's sovereignty ... that will expose the region's security and stability to the gravest dangers and consequences." He called on the United Nations to "take immediate action to prevent the repetition of such aggression."

Alleged Israeli air strikes in Syria and the repercussions

The office of Egypt's president, Mohamed Mursi said the airstrikes were a violation of international law and a threat to regional security and stability that "made the situation more complicated." The statement added that although Egypt opposed the regime's use of military force against its people, it also rejected "the attack on Syrian assets (and) the violation of Syria's sovereignty."

The shipments targeted by the airstrikes were reportedly of highly accurate Iranian-made short-range ballistic missiles known as Fateh-110s or "Conqueror" in Farsi in transit from Iran to Lebanon via Syria.

Upgraded last year, the missile's range was extended to 300 kilometers (186.4 miles). Iranian Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi said at the time that the solid-fueled missile could strike with precision, making it the most accurate weapon of its kind in Iran's arsenal. Should it be sited in Lebanon, almost all of Israel would be in its range.

jm/jlw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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