President Assad accuses Israel of destabilising Syria

Syrian state TV broadcast this footage, saying it showed the aftermath of the air strike

Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad has accused Israel of trying to "destabilise" his country.

It was his first remarks on last week's reported Israeli air strike in Syria.

Syrian TV has shown images of the raid Damascus says Israeli jets carried out on a military research centre in Jamraya last Wednesday.

US officials said the air strike targeted a weapons convoy bound for Lebanon. The Israeli defence minister has hinted his country was responsible.

Ehud Barak told a security conference in Germany on Sunday that the strike was "proof that when we say something we mean it".

"We don't think [Syria] should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon," he told the meeting of top international diplomats and defence officials.

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The air strike has strengthened President Bashar al-Assad's regional credentials as the standard-bearer of Arab defiance to Israel”

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President Assad said on Sunday that last Wednesday's raid "unmasked the true role Israel is playing, in collaboration with foreign enemy forces and their agents on Syrian soil, to destabilise and weaken Syria".

But he said, in a meeting with Saeed Jalili, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, that his country's military was able to confront "current threats... and aggression".

Syria's state al-Ikhbariya television showed what it said was the aftermath of the air strike at the research centre at Jamraya, north-east of Damascus. Footage of a damaged building and burnt out vehicles was combined with accounts from witnesses.

One said he broke his shoulder and suffered hand and leg injuries. "When the bombardment ended I tried to help the people who were injured," he was quoted as saying.

But a US official told the BBC last week that the target was a convoy carrying SA-17 surface-to-air missiles.


The BBC's Jim Muir, reporting from Beirut, says President Assad's comments, while signalling defiance, do not amount to a threat of imminent retaliation.

And he points out that the footage of a damaged building and wrecked military vehicles raises the possibility that an arms consignment for Hezbollah may have been at the Jamraya facility.

So the two rival accounts of the attack - that the target was a research facility or a convoy - may both be true, our correspondent adds.

Israel has repeatedly warned of the danger that Syria's chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Correspondents say Israel is also concerned the Shia militant group could obtain anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, thus strengthening its ability to respond to Israeli air strikes.

The White House last week also warned Syria against giving weapons to Hezbollah.

On the ground, at least 16 people, including 10 children, were killed when government forces bombed a rebel-held area in the northern city of Aleppo, activists say.

In further violence in the city on Sunday, a former member of parliament, his wife and two daughters were killed by rebels near Aleppo airport, the official Sana news agency said.

Neither report could be independently verified.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the 22-month conflict between the Assad government and the rebels, according to UN estimates.

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