Syria, Iran condemn Israeli airstrikes
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif - AP/Craig Ruttle

BEIRUT: The Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers on Monday condemned Israeli airstrikes on two areas near Damascus, calling it an act of aggression that proves Israel was “in the same trench” with extremist groups fighting the Syrian government.

Israeli warplanes bombed the two areas Sunday, striking near Damascus’ international airport as well as outside a town close to the Lebanese border.

The Syrian government said the attacks caused material damage. Israel has not confirmed the strikes, and it was not immediately clear what they targeted, although activists said they hit weapons depots.

Appearing on Israel Radio on Monday, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz would neither confirm nor deny the news, but offered a subtle hint about what might have been involved.

“We have a very potent defense policy that is oriented toward safeguarding the country and wherever possible preventing the upgrading of weaponry that gives terrorist organizations game-changers or unusually sophisticated means of attack,” he said.

Since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011, Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria that have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, believed to be destined for Israel’s arch foe — the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group. Israel has never officially confirmed the strikes.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem claimed Israel was trying to compensate for losses incurred by Islamic extremist groups in Syria at the hands of the Syrian army. He did not elaborate.

He spoke Monday at a joint news conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

He also said that Syria, along with its Russian and Iranian allies, is working on a political solution for the Syrian conflict “based on dialogue between Syrians and without any outside intervention.”

Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who visited Lebanon last week, said his country is trying to arrange a meeting between Syria’s warring sides without preconditions. He then flew to Turkey to meet with the head of Syria’s Western-backed opposition group, Hadi Bahra.

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