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Syria returns fire after Israeli war planes bomb territory
from The Peninsula
Entered into the database on Saturday, September 08th, 2007 @ 13:54:35 MST


Untitled Document damascus • Syria said its air defences opened fire on Israeli warplanes which had violated Syrian airspace at dawn yesterday, ratcheting up the tension between the neighbouring foes.

A Syrian cabinet minister warned that the nation’s leadership was considering its response to the Israeli “aggression” while in Israel the military declined any comment.

“Enemy Israeli planes penetrated Syrian airspace from the Mediterranean Sea heading towards the northeast, breaking the sound barrier,” a Syrian army spokesman told the official Sana news agency. “Our air defences repulsed them and forced them to leave... after the Israeli planes dropped munitions, without causing human or material loss,” he said, without giving further information on what exactly was dropped.

Syria’s allegations came amid a war of words with Israel, with each blaming the other for stoking regional tensions and for the failure to revive peace talks that have been stalled for seven years. Information Minister Mohsen Bilal told Al Jazeera that Syria’s leadership was “giving serious consideration to its response... to this aggression.”

In Israel, the military refused to comment on Syria’s claims, saying: “We do not comment on such reports.” Former major general Uzi Dayan said the military’s silence was an indication of Israel’s eagerness not to allow the incident to stoke tensions with Syria.

“Israel is active on many fronts in the Middle East but we have no intention to bring about a deterioration in the situation. That is why the Israeli reaction was so short and restrained,” he told private Channel Two television.

A Syrian minister admitted to Al Jazeera’s English-language channel that it remained unclear whether the Israeli aircraft had actually carried out an attack. “They intervened in our airspace... which they should not do — we are a sovereign country and they should not come into airspace,” Expatriate Affairs Minister Bussaina Shaaban said. “We do not know yet” if the aircraft dropped anything. “The investigation is still going on on the ground,” she said.

In June 2006, Israeli warplanes flew over President Bashar Al Assad’s palace in northern Syria while he was inside, an action Damascus condemned as an “act of piracy”. Over the past few months, Israeli and Syrian leaders have both said their countries do not want a war, but were preparing for any possibility while each side has accused the other of arming for a conflict.