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Declarations of War? Israel's Suspected Bombing of Syria Raises Stakes
Reports of additional Israeli missile attacks overnight raise tensions between neighboring countries
Developing... Check back for updates...
Explosions that rocked the outskirts of Damascus overnight were caused by missiles unleashed by the Israeli military, according to various media reports. If these reports are confirmed, said one Syrian official on Sunday, the attack would be considered as a "declaration of war" by Israel.
Update: (12:09 PM EST)
Reporting on the latest response from the Syrian government, Al-Jazeera reports:
Syria's information minister has given warning that Israeli air raids against three targets on the outskirts of Damascus "open the door to all possibilities".
Omran al-Zoabi's comments in Damascus on Sunday came after an emergency cabinet meeting organised to respond to what a Western source said was a new attack on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Although Zoabi did not hint at a concrete course of action, he said it was Syria's duty to protect the state from any "domestic or foreign attack through all available means".
He claimed the Israeli attacks are evidence of the country's links with "Islamic extremist groups" trying to topple the Syrian government.
Update: (11:03 AM EST)
Agence France-Presse reports that Israeli officials, under cover of anonymity, have confirmed that Israel was behind the overnight bombings inside Syria.
"The attack was very close to the airport, the target was Iranian missiles which were destined for Hezbollah," the senior official told AFP.
In response to the attack, both Egypt and the Arab League condemned the Israeli attack, with the office of Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi saying the bombing has "violated international law and principles that will further complicate the situation."
Israeli officials have yet to comment officially on the incident, but did confirm a separate missile strike carried out by Israel on Thursday.
Israel carried out its second air strike in days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source said, in an attack that shook Damascus with a series of powerful blasts and drove columns of fire into the night sky.
Israel declined comment but Syria accused the Jewish state of striking a military facility just north of the capital - one which its jets had first targeted three months ago. Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an arch-enemy for Israel, urged states in the region to resist the Israeli attack.
People living near the Jamraya base spoke of explosions over several hours in various places near Damascus, including a town housing senior officials: "Night turned into day," one man said.
Video report from Al-Jazeera:
NBC News reports that a senior US official confirmed to them that Israel was behind the attack and reported:
A rebel spokesman, who spoke from a “liberated area” held by the opposition in Damascus, told NBC News there were huge explosions just before 2 a.m. Sunday local time (7 p.m. Saturday ET) in the Qaysoun mountains on the edge of Damascus.
“Around 10 locations were hit," the spokesman said. "It was difficult to tell what was hit in the raid and what exploded afterwards. Some of the targets were weapons and weapons depots."
"Secondary explosions continued for about four hours. They shook all of Damascus. There was still smoke in the air as the sun came up."
From its Damascus media office, the Free Syrian Army listed 9 apparent targets, including the Syrian Revolutionary Guard, the 104th brigade headquarters, a weapons depot in Qasyoun and a military research center at Jamraya.
And CNN adds:
A Syrian official called an attack Sunday on the nation's military research facility a "declaration of war" by Israel.
In an interview with CNN, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said the attack represented an alliance between Islamic terrorists and Israel.
He added that Syria would retaliate against Israel in its own time and way.
Early Sunday morning, a series of massive explosions illuminated the predawn sky in Damascus, prompting more claims that Israel has launched attacks into the war-torn country.
Syria accused Israel of firing rockets into the Damascus suburb of Jamraya, striking the research center, Syrian state-run TV reported. The report claimed that the rocket attack on the research center aided rebels, who have been battling government forces in the region.
The Israeli military would not confirm or deny the Syrian TV claim that Israel had launched rockets.
"We do not comment on these reports at all," an Israeli military spokesperson said.
From the Associated Press:
Two previous Israeli airstrikes, one in January and one on Friday, targeted weapons apparently bound for Hezbollah, Israeli and U.S. officials have said.
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported early Sunday that explosions went off at the Jamraya research center near Damascus, causing casualties. "Initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles that targeted the research center in Jamraya," SANA said.
A Syrian activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported large explosions in the area of Jamraya, a military and scientific research facility northwest of Damascus, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.
An amateur video said to be shot early Sunday in the Damascus area showed a huge ball of fire lighting up the night sky. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting.
Israel's first airstrike in Syria, in January, also struck Jamraya.