Alleged attacks “open the door to all possibilities”, Syria’s information minister says, as Arab League urges UN action.
The Turkish prime minister has condemned Israeli air raids on targets near Damascus, saying they were an opportunity for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to cover up its own killings.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was referring on Tuesday to Banias, a Syrian coastal town, where opposition activists said at least 62 people were killed by government forces over the weekend.
“The air strike Israel carried out on Damascus is completely unacceptable. There is no rationale, no pretext that can excuse this operation,” Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling party (AKP).
“These attacks are chances, opportunities offered on a golden tray to Assad and to the illegitimate Syrian regime. Using the Israel attack as an excuse, he is trying to cover up the genocide in Baniyas,” he said.
Israeli officials have hinted that the raids on Friday and Sunday were not intended to influence the ongoing civil war but only at stopping Iranian missiles reaching Lebanon’s Hezbollah group for possible use against Israel.
Elite troops targeted
Residents and opposition sources said the Israeli fighter jets struck elite Syrian troops in the valley of the Barada River that flows through Damascus and on Qasioun Mountain overlooking the capital.
They said targets included air defences, Republican Guards and a compound linked to chemical weapons.
Lebanon, which borders both Israel and Syria, has also condemned the air raids and called on the UN Security Council to condemn violations of its air space by Israel.
Erdogan said he was appalled by the photographs of children murdered by the Syrian government and criticised the international community for its failure to act.
“I wonder how long you will turn a blind eye to this massacre,” he said. “Damn your international policies!”
He called on the UN Security Council to “urgently convene” over the Banias killings, which have sent residents fleeing.
Turkey cut contact with Syria after its calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is now in its third year and has killed more than 70,000 people, went unheeded.
Turkey has sided with the rebels fighting to topple Assad’s regime, taken in around 400,000 refugees as well as army defectors and repeatedly called on the international community to act on the unfolding crisis.