Israel stops arms transfers to 'terrorists': Minister

Israel said on Monday it will not allow "sophisticated weapons" to fall into the hands of its enemies, after furious claims from Syria that Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes near Damascus.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 08, 2014, 23:50 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel said on Monday it will not allow "sophisticated weapons" to fall into the hands of its enemies, after furious claims from Syria that Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes near Damascus.

The Jewish state refused to confirm or deny the strikes, but its forces have previously targeted weapons allegedly destined for arch-foe Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The two strikes yesterday, including one on the country's main international airport, were fiercely condemned by Damascus, which called for UN sanctions against Israel.

Asked about the strikes on public radio, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz refused to comment directly but stressed Israel's policy of preventing arms transfers to militant groups.

"We have a firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organisations," Steinitz said, in a clear reference to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Israel has launched a series of air strikes inside Syria since the outbreak of the country's armed uprising in 2011, including raids reportedly targeting Iranian rockets bound for Hezbollah.

The Syrian army said yesterday's strikes by "the Israeli enemy" had targeted two areas near the capital, including Damascus International Airport, which is used by both civilian and military aircraft.

It said the strikes caused damage but that nobody was hurt.

"This direct aggression by Israel was carried out to help the terrorists in Syria," the army said, using the regime's collective term to refer to peaceful opponents, armed rebels and jihadists fighting in Syria.

There was no threat of retaliation, but the Syrian foreign ministry said it had asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, describing the strikes as "a heinous crime against Syria's sovereignty".

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, both of the targeted sites were used for military purposes.

"Both were military sites, and weapons were being stored there," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Syria's regime is a close ally of Hezbollah, which has launched numerous attacks against Israeli forces and in 2006 fought a month-long war with the country.