Assad: Russia can play key role in stopping escalation between Syria and Israel

Several diplomatic initiatives have stumbled over the future of President Bashar al-Assad
- (SANA/AFP)
Comments come days after Israel confirms it took out targets in Syria to prevent weapons transfer

Syrian President Basher Assad said Monday that Russia can play a key role in preventing escalations between Syria and Israel, according to Russian media outlet Interfax.

Assad's comments come just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Israeli air strikes in Syria, defending Israel's right to protect itself from the transfer of advanced weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

"Our policy is very consistent," Netanyahu said regarding the strikes. "When we detect attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, and we have the intelligence and feasibility to carry out an operation, we will work to prevent it."

According to the Russian new agency Tass, Assad said Monday that "As we heard this morning, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the Israeli ambassador- they invited him to the Ministry in order to discuss the Israeli violation of the Syrian sovereignty."

"I think Russia can play an important role in that regard, and the whole policy of Russia is based on the international law, it's based on the Charter of the United Nations, and the Security Council resolutions. So, they can discuss the same issues with the Israelis depending on this criteria, and they can play a role in order that Israel not attack Syria again in the future," Assad said.

Earlier in the day Syria's Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari in an appearance on Syrian TV claimed that Russia told the Israeli envoy to Moscow on Friday that the IDF can no longer strike when it likes in Syria.

Moscow on Friday summoned Israel's ambassador to Russia Gary Koren for clarifications over Israel's strikes in Syria the night before.

Koren had presented his credentials to Russian President Vladimir Putin on and assumed the role only the day before.

“Putin sent a clear message,” Jaafari said. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials, and was told categorically that this game is over.”

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on Jaafari's claim.

AMIR COHEN (POOL/AFP)

Officials in Jerusalem have repeatedly said that Israel will take action to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to terror groups and over a dozen strikes inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.

Israel rarely comments on such alleged strikes, either to confirm or deny them.

However, while avoiding being drawn into the internal Syrian conflict, Israel attacks Syrian military targets when fire, even unintentional, spills over the demarcation line.

Overnight Thursday, Israeli warplanes attacked several targets in Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said, prompting an attempt from the Syrian regime to shoot down the Israeli jets.

The Syrian army claimed that it shot down an Israeli plane and hit a second one as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra.

"Our air defense engaged them and shot down one warplane over occupied territory, hit another one, and forced the rest to flee," the army said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

The Israeli army confirmed that it had carried out several strikes on Syria overnight, but that none of the ground-to-air missiles fired by Syrian forces in response had hit Israeli aircraft.

“Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles,” the army said in a statement.

The Arrow system, a part of Israeli's multi-layered air defense array, is designed to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, intercepting the weapons and their warheads close to their launch sites.

The IDF did not specify which targets were attacked, but local media and Arab media said the target of the strikes was a Hezbollah weapons convoy.

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