Syria and Israel in war of words following airstrikes, Russia preventing conflict

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks to the media in Damascus.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replied to Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying it is Syria’s right and duty to protects its borders.

Israeli fighter jets bombed Syria in the early hours of the morning on Friday while Syria responded by firing several Russian S-200 missiles at Israeli Air Force jets, one of which was intercepted by an Israeli air defence system installed in January.

“You have to understand the context, if we strike there is a real reason for it,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. He added that Israel “will not hesitate” to destroy Syria’s air defence systems if Israeli fighter jets are ever targeted again.

“It’s our right and our duty to defend our borders. If we don’t do this, even though we have the means to do so, the Syrian people should blame us and hold us accountable,” President al-Assad told Russian reporters in Damascus, according to Sputnik news outlet, adding that Israeli statements had no importance to Damascus.

“We don’t shape our policies or our decisions according to [Israel’s] statements,” al-Assad was quoted as saying. He also expressed confidence that Russia would prevent a conflict between Syria and Israel.

Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Jaafari, speaking to Syrian television on Monday said, “Putin sent a clear message.”

“The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.”