Israel sought on Monday to explain to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that its airstrikes inside the neighbor country did not aim to weaken the Syrian regime.
Instead, Israel maintained that the strikes were aimed at stopping Hezbollah from getting shipments of missiles supplied from Iran. The missiles were reportedly being held near the Syrian capital.
Intelligence sources have said that Israel’s airstrikes in Syria were aimed at Iranian-supplied missiles stored near the Syrian capital on Friday and Sunday. The missiles were reportedly awaiting transfer to a Hezbollah guerrilla group in Lebanon.
Syria was upset by the airstrikes, which the government condemned, calling it a “declaration of war.” The Syrian government has vowed to take unspecified actions in retaliation to the strikes.
Veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi stated on Israel Radio that the Netanyahu government was hoping to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making it clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime.” The country has not confirmed it was the one to launch attacks on its northern neighbor.
Despite assuring it meant no harm to the Syrian government, Hanegbi added that Israel is ready for any development should the Syrians misinterpret messages it has sent. He added the country is prepared “to respond harshly if there is aggression against us.” Israel has deployed two of its five Iron Dome rocket interceptors near the Syrian and Lebanese fronts as a precaution.
Following the two airstrikes, Syria accused Israel of belligerence aimed at helping the opposition forces who have been trying to topple the government for more than two years. Oil prices also hit more than $105 per barrel, their highest in almost a month, after the airstrikes spread the fear of a spillover of the conflict into the rest of the Middle East.
Along with Hanegbi, Yair Golan, the general commanding Israeli forces on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, stated, “There are no winds of war.” He added to reporters while out jogging with his troops, “Do you see tension? There is no tension. Do I look tense to you?”
It is not clear if Syria will accept the explanation by Israeli officials for the reported airstrikes.