Assad Says Syria Will Hit Back at Israel

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vows to hit back at Israel over alleged airstrike in January, but says it may not be an overt attack.


President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad
AFP photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad referred Saturday to a reported Israeli airstrike in January on Syrian soil, which had allegedly damaged a chemical weapons site, vowing to hit back the Jewish State.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Assad said his country had always hit back at Israel but said it might not be an overt counterattack.

“We retaliated in our own way, and only the Israelis know what we mean. Retaliation does not mean missile for missile or bullet for bullet. Our own way does not have to be announced,” he said.

Assad also denied that fighters from Iran and the Hizbullah terror group had been dispatched to help defend his regime against rebels, but refused to discuss reports that Damascus was looking to transfer its large chemical weapons stores to Hizbullah.

“We have never, and will never, discuss our armaments with anyone,” he told the Times.

U.S. officials indicated that the airstrike that was allegedly carried out by Israel targeted surface-to-air missiles and an adjacent military complex believed to house chemical agents.

Israel has not commented on the attack, and has not officially confirmed its involvement, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted at the possibility that Israel did carry out the attack.

In the Sunday Times interview, Assad also warned Britain to keep out of the conflict in his country, accusing the British government of acting in "a naïve, confused, and unrealistic manner."

He told the newspaper that for decades Britain had played an "unconstructive" role in the Middle East, claiming that the British government was determined to arm his opponents.

“How can we expect to ask Britain to play a role when it is determined to militarize the problem?” said Assad, adding, “How can you ask them to play a role in making the situation better, more stable? How can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supply to the terrorists and don't try to ease the dialogue between the Syrians.”

"There's no contact between Syria and Britain for a long time,” said Assad. "You cannot separate the role from the credibility, and you cannot separate the credibility from the history of that country.”

"To be frank, Britain has played famously in our region (an) unconstructive role in different issues, for decades, some say for centuries," he said.

Assad added, "I think they are working against us, and they are working against the interests of the UK itself. This government is acting in a naïve, confused, and unrealistic manner. If they want to play a role they have to change this, they have to act in a more reasonable and responsible way."

Britain has expressed support for the Syrian opposition involved in fighting against the government but has not provided the rebels with weapons or ammunition.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, however, has indicated that the UK could send weapons to opposition groups in the future. The Telegraph reported that he is expected to make a statement in Parliament next week detailing aid, including civilian vehicles, that will be sent to the rebels.

“We want to do more and we want to give more types of support and we’re pushing to do that,” a Foreign Office spokesman said earlier this week, according to the Telegraph.

Hague met on Thursday in Rome with members of the mainstream Syrian National Council (SNC) to discuss the issue of his country training and equipping opposition forces in their fight to Assad from power, making good on a promise he extended late last summer.

Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the United States will provide $60 million to hand-picked Syrian rebel groups.

Kerry said the aid, to be provided “immediately in non-lethal assistance” would come in addition to “further steps” to be taken in working with the opposition fighters.