Excerpted from CBS News: The Syrian regime and opposition forces found one thing to agree on, albeit for different reasons: The both condemned Israel for carrying out two airstrikes in the Middle Eastern country over the past 48 hours, a major escalation of Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Israel rushed to beef up its rocket defenses on its northern border Sunday to shield against possible retaliation from both Syria and its patron Iran. Although Syria and Iran hinted at possible retribution, the rhetoric in official statements appeared relatively muted.
Syrian opposition forces also spoke out against the airstrike in a press statement, saying it hurt their efforts to take down the regime of Bashar Assad.
“The Syrian Coalition is suspicious of the timing of this attack,” the statement said. “These strikes have given the regime the necessary time to draw attention away from its crimes and massacres on the Syrian coast. It is not unlikely that as a result of these attacks, and world distraction, more crimes will be committed.”
Meanwhile, leaders in the Arab League find themselves facing a conundrum. Nearly all Arab states have sided with rebel forces seeking to topple Assad and inflict a blow to his main ally, Iran, and the airstrikes are the type of punishing response many Arab leaders have urged from the West against Assad.
The fact the fighter jets came from Israel, however, exposes the complications and regional crosscurrents that make Syria the Arab Spring’s most intricate puzzle. No Arab leader wants to be perceived as giving a green light for Israeli attacks.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby warned of serious repercussions from the Israeli attacks and called on the U.N. Security Council to “immediately move to stop the Israeli aggressions on Syria.”
Elaraby described the Israeli airstrikes as a “grave violation of the sovereignty of an Arab state that will further complicate the issue in Syria and expose the region’s security and stability to the most serious threats and consequences.”
Despite new concerns about a regional war, Israeli officials signaled they will keep trying to block what they see as an effort by Iran to send sophisticated weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia ahead of a possible collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to intervene in the Syrian civil war to stop the transfer of what it calls “game-changing” weapons to Hezbollah, a Syrian-backed group that battled Israel to a stalemate during a month-long war in 2006.
Since carrying out a lone airstrike in January that reportedly destroyed a shipment of anti-aircraft missiles headed to Hezbollah, Israel had largely stayed on the sidelines. That changed over the weekend with a pair of airstrikes, including an attack near a sprawling military complex close to the Syrian capital of Damascus early Sunday that set off a series of powerful explosions.
The Israeli government and military refused to comment. But a senior Israeli official said both airstrikes targeted shipments of Fateh-110 missiles bound for Hezbollah. The Iranian-made guided missiles can fly deep into Israel and deliver powerful half-ton bombs with pinpoint accuracy. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a covert military operation.
Still, Israel seemed to be taking the Syrian threats seriously. Israel’s military deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the north of the country Sunday. It described the move as part of “ongoing situational assessments.”