Syria on Monday called for U.N. sanctions against Israel over alleged airstrikes on Syrian soil, including one that struck the Damascus International Airport on Sunday.
There was no threat of retaliation, but the Syrian Foreign Ministry said it had asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as the Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, describing Sunday's alleged attack as "a heinous crime against Syria's sovereignty."
Israeli forces have previously targeted weapons allegedly destined for Lebanon's armed Shia group Hezbollah, an ally of Syria that has fought alongside the Syrian army against largely Sunni rebel groups.
Though Israel has refused to confirm or deny the latest reports, its intelligence minister said Sunday that Israel would not allow "sophisticated weapons" to fall into the hands of its enemies.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, the two sites allegedly targeted on Sunday — the Damascus International Airport and an area outside Damascus — were both used for military purposes. But the Observatory could not confirm that any weapons stored or transiting through there belonged to Hezbollah.
The Syrian army said that the attack by the "Israeli enemy" caused damage, but that nobody was hurt.
"This direct aggression by Israel was carried out to help the terrorists in Syria," the Syrian army said. The government of Bashar al-Assad often uses “terrorists” as a collective term to describe peaceful opponents, armed rebels and self-declared jihadists fighting in Syria, including Al-Qaeda as well as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who is in the Iranian capital for a two-day conference on violence and extremism, also accused Israel of trying to compensate for losses incurred by rebels in Syria at the hands of the Syrian army.
Muallem made the comments at a joint press conference with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, who echoed his sentiments.
Russia, which along with Iran is the Syrian regime’s chief international backer, demanded an explanation from Israel on Monday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement that Russia was “deeply concerned about this dangerous development, which requires a detailed investigation."
Asked on public radio Monday about the Syrian accusations, Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz refused to comment directly but stressed that his country had a "firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organizations," an apparent reference to Hezbollah.
Just hours ahead of the strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters gathered for his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that his government was “closely monitoring” the Middle East with “open eyes and ears,” because “a lot is happening.”
“We will stay informed and we will deal with these threats and challenges, which are not taking a timeout. We will deal with them with the same responsibility that we have up until now,” he said, in comments many analysts interpreted in hindsight as an allusion to the coming strikes.
Israel has launched raids reportedly targeting Iranian rockets bound for Hezbollah, including a shipment of Fateh-110 in May 2013. Then in March of this year, Israel killed one Syrian soldier in a strike on the Quneitra region of the disputed Golan Heights, according to the Syrian government.
Some Israeli opposition figures raised questions about the timing of the latest raids, which came after Netanyahu called early elections. Netanyahu is looking to shore up his support on the right before primaries for his Likud party and the snap vote in March.
"I hope this isn't the opening salvo of the campaign for the Likud primaries and the next elections," Ilan Gilon of the Meretz party said.
Al Jazeera and wire services