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Damascus: IAF planes dropped live ammunition on Syria during flyover

by haaretz.com Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2007 at 12:42 PM

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Monday that Israel Air Force warplanes dropped live ammunition during an alleged violation of Syrian airspace in the early hours of Thursday.

Last update - 21:02 10/09/2007

By Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and the Associated Press

Muallem, who was addressing a press conference in Ankara along with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan, was quoted Monday as accusing Israel of having carried out an intentional and hostile act.

Meanwhile, former MK Azmi Bishara said Monday he believes Israel carried out an operation in Syira. "Without getting carried away in speculation, this was an aerial operation, not an [airspace] violation in order to send a message," he wrote in an article published on the Syrian Web site Sham-Fares

Bishara wrote that the operation was extremely serious, and that it could become a pretext for certain Lebanese or Syrian officials to go to war.

The Balad chairman added that that Israel's silence on the issue is unusual. "Israel has wrapped itself in silence and imposed this path on even the most talkative politicians, as the quiet after the storm could become the quiet before the storm," he wrote.

Bishara listed several potential targets for the operation: arms smuggling, anti-aircraft systems, or missile systems. Alternatively, Bishara wrote, Israel may have been testing Syrian air defenses in order to map out a route for an air strike on Iran.

Turkey: Israel vows swift probe of alleged airspace violation

For its part, Turkey said Monday that Israel has promised swift investigation of a possible violation of Turkish airspace.

Babacan demanded a quick explanation from Israel over the fuel tanks found near the Syrian border, calling the incident unacceptable, the Associated Press reported Monday.

"This situation is unacceptable for Turkey," he said.

Israeli officials have maintained a rare silence over the widely reported incident. At Sunday's cabinet meeting, no ministers spoke with the press and journalists were not allowed to ask questions, in a break from custom.

"This is an unacceptable development," Babacan said during the joint news conference.

"All countries in the region must show respect to all countries' sovereignty and avoid acts that lead to tensions," he said. "Otherwise, tensions would be fueled and peace and stability in the region might be harmed."

Turkey has demanded a prompt clarification from Israel and was still waiting for a response, Babacan said.

"Israel has openly shown that it has no intentions to make peace," Muallem said.

Earlier Monday, the Syrian foreign minister was quoted as telling European diplomats that Damascus received a "calming message" from Jerusalem several hours before Israel's reported violation of Syrian airspace.

The diplomats told the Arabic language daily Al-Hayyat that, according to Muallem, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana personally transmitted the message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The message reportedly stated Israel's intention to withdraw most Israel Defense Forces troops stationed in the Golan Heights in the wake of increasing tension between Syria and Israel in recent months.

The report states that Muallem and Solana met on the sidelines of the Arab League meeting in Cairo last Wednesday. Mualem told the diplomats that the message was just a "preparation for the penetration of planes into Syrian skies, just hours later."

Muallem called Solana the next day, reports Al-Hayyat, to update him on the incident, and told him that it came in direct contrast to Olmert's message and to Israel's declarations that it has peaceful intentions.

The diplomats said that Solana promised he would give Damascus on update on the issue.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/902529.html

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