Assad: Syria Counting on Russia to Prevent Military Conflict With Israel

'Russia can play an important role in preventing a military conflict between Israel and Syria,' Syrian president says days after Israel admits to strike.

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, March 11, 2017.
Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, March 11, 2017. Uncredited/AP

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Monday that Damascus is counting on Russia to prevent Israeli strikes on Syria.

Assad told Russian media in the Syrian capital that "protecting our borders is our privilege and a duty." He however did not mention any specific strike attributed to Israel, including the one on Thursday, which Israel had admitted to.

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"We are not basing our decisions and policy on statements by senior Israeli officials," he said. "Russia can play an important role in preventing a military conflict between Israel and Syria."

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations said late on Sunday that Russia has sent a clear message to Israel that the rules of the game have changed in Syria and its freedom to act in Syrian skies is over.

>> Analysis: With missile fire, Assad is trying to change the rules of the game >>

“Putin sent a clear message,” said Bashar Jaafari, speaking on Syrian television. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.”

Syria’s use of anti-aircraft fire against Israel last Thursday night has changed the rules of the game, too, Jaafari said, adding that Syria will not stand idly by in the face of an Israeli threat.

He also claimed that when the civil war began in Syria in 2011, opposition militia groups sabotaged the anti-aircraft defense systems belonging to Assad’s regime, giving Israel freedom to operate.