Should NATO forces attack Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad would launch retaliatory missiles on Tel Aviv in six hours, Iran's semi-official FARS new agency reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, which has not been verified by any other media sources, Assad met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in August and told him, "If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need no more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights and fire them at Tel Aviv." Davutoglu passed the message on to the U.S., adding that Assad pledged to "set fire" to the Middle East in the event of a strike on Syria.
According to the report, Assad also told Davutoglu that Syria would instruct Hezbollah to launch “such a devastating missile attack on Israel that Israeli intelligence agencies could not imagine.”
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Turkish daily Today's Zaman issued a categorical denial of the claims.
In the Iranian report, Assad was quoted as saying, "This would happen within the first three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf and U.S. and European interests will be targeted at the same time."
The veracity of the report was immediately called into question. Many pundits noted that Turkey, once a close friend of Syria, has taken a much harsher stance in recent months as Assad's bloody crackdown against anti-government protesters shows no sign of abating. Ankara has gone so far as to declare that it has given up on Assad, and the August meeting between him and Davutoglu was said to have been very tense.
For the past seven months, Syria has been embroiled in a popular uprising against Assad and his regime. Reports numbered Syrian civilians killed by government forces above 3,000, and Turkey has seen an influx of refugees stream across its border.
On Tuesday, Russia and China struck down a U.N. Security Council proposal to sanction Syria for its ongoing violence against its people. The proposal, submitted by the EU and backed by the U.S., had the requisite support of nine nations, including Lebanon and Brazil, but Russia, which enjoys a lucrative arms trade with Syria, is one of the five veto-wielding members of the council, as is China.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Russia's Interfax news agency that Russia "could not support the current version of the proposal. It is not acceptable to us because it includes the possibility of sanctions against Syria."
According to Bloomberg News, Human Rights Watch said the veto was “a disgrace" and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said, “The U.S. is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security."
Meanwhile, the Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported on Wednesday that the Turkish military is set to conduct a military exercise in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay. The province is said to be the new home of some 7,500 Syrian refugees who fled the violence in Syria.
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