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Syrian Complaint to U.N. on Alleged IAF Incident

Syria says it will file a complaint with the United Nations on claims the IAF penetrated its air space last week.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 9/10/2007, 11:00 AM

Syria will file a formal complaint with the United Nations Security Council on allegations that Israeli Air Force aircraft flew over the northern enemy nation last Wednesday night.

The charges include invasion of air space and bombing, which Syria claims occurred over open fields in the north of the country.

Syrian officials announced Thursday that their armed forces had fired at an IAF aircraft during the incident. “The Israeli plane arrived from the Mediterranean Sea towards northeastern Syria and broke the sound barrier,” said Syrian officials in a statement to the media.

“Anti-aircraft fire forced it to leave, after it threw out ammunition without causing damage. We have warned the Israeli enemy against taking such offensive action, and we reserve the right to retaliate appropriately,” continued the statement.

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Naher published an unconfirmed report a day later that Damascus had begun to call up its reserve forces, but the reason behind the move was unclear.

Israel: “No Comment”

Israeli government officials were initially tight-lipped about the claim, saying “Israel does not comment on reports of this nature.”  Jerusalem has continued to maintain its grim silence on the alleged incident.

In an unusual move, journalists were barred from carrying out the customary individual interviews with government ministers prior to entering the weekly Sunday morning cabinet meeting. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly banned the preliminary media coverage specifically to prevent comments on the issues surrounding the alleged incident. A spokesman said the government instituted the policy in order to avoid inadvertent leaks to the media.

The new policy came after Labor MK Raleb Majadle, appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as Minister of Culture, Science and Sports, broke the government’s policy of silence on the incident over the weekend. Majadle, an Israeli Arab, told Arabic-speaking reporters that Israeli planes enter Syrian airspace “all the time.” He also speculated that the planes entered Syrian airspace “either to take photographs or by mistake.”
 
U.S. State Department, White House: “No Comment”

The U.S. State Department and the White House both issued an official “no comment” reaction to the alleged incident as well. “Those stories conflict with one another so really I just don’t have anything for you on it,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. He added that he had “no information that would be able to substantiate any of the charges that have been made.”

The usual off-the-record channels used by reporters seeking additional information were also sealed shut this time around.

Defense analysts have said however that the peak window of time in which tensions between Syria and Israel could further escalate had passed and that it is unlikely a war will break out.

Turkey and Syria to Discuss Issue Monday

Turkish officials have been discussing the alleged incident with Syrian authorities since the reported discovery Thursday of two jettisoned IAF fuel tanks on Turkey's side of the border with Syria.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem is scheduled to meet in Ankara Monday with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and newly-appointed

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. Discussions are expected to focus on the alleged incursion although the meeting itself was planned prior to the incident, said Turkish sources.

“Such developments may lead to additional tensions at a time when our region is passing through a critical period,” Babacan told reporters over the weekend, adding that the Turkish government expects Syria and Israel to “act with restraint.”