On January 30th, Israel launched an airstrike inside Syria targeting what U.S. officials said was a military research facility and a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons. The weapons, Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, were said to be bound for Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran. However, Syria denied that any such convoy had been attacked and said the target of the strike was a scientific research centre (Bassem Mroue, “Syria threatens retaliation for Israeli airstrike“, Associated Press, 1 February 2013).
The attack further heightened tensions in the region, which have been at especially high levels since the beginning of Syria’s 22-month-old civil war. The Syrian government has suggested the possibility of a military response to the strike.
Syria sent a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General stressing the country’s “right to defend itself, its territory and sovereignty” and holding Israel and its supporters accountable.
“Israel and those who protect it at the Security Council are fully responsible for the repercussions of this aggression,” the letter from Syria’s Foreign Ministry said.
Russia, the Syrian government’s most important international ally, took a similar position, describing the strike as “an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.”
If this information is confirmed, we have a case of unprovoked attacks on targets in the territory of a sovereign state, which grossly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable. Whatever the motives, this is not justified.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides to respect international law (“Ban calls for preventing further tensions after reported Israeli air strikes on Syria,” United Nations News Centre, 31 January 2013):
“The Secretary-General notes with grave concern reports of Israeli air strikes in Syria. At this time, the United Nations does not have details of the reported incident. Nor is the United Nations in a position to independently verify what has occurred. The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to prevent tensions or their escalation in the region, and to strictly abide by international law, in particular in respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region.”
United Nations efforts to bring the conflict in Syria to an end have been largely ignored by all parties.
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