Barak: Syria strike proof that when Israel says something, we mean it
Defense minister stops short of acknowledging Israel's involvement in the strike; says Assad's fall is imminent, will strike major blow to Hezbollah and Iran.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday made reference to the strike Israel purportedly launched on a weapons convoy in Syria last week, telling reporters in Germany that the incident is proof that when "we say something, we mean it".
Barak stopped short of affirming Israel's involvement in the strike, which U.S. officials said targeted a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons from Syria to Lebanon.
"I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago," he said, opening his remarks.
But, addressing the audience in English, he then added: "I keep telling frankly that we said … and that's proof when we said something we mean it… we say that we don't think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon."
This was the first public comment any Israeli official has made regarding the strike, though it still does not constitute acknowledgment of involvement.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that if Syria were to disintegrate, President Bashar Assad could lose control of his chemical weapons and other arms.
The Syrian military said the target of Israeli jets was a scientific research center. The facility is in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus.
Purported images of the targeted site, aired by Syrian state television on Saturday, show destroyed cars, trucks and military vehicles. A building has broken widows and damaged interiors, but no major structural damage.
Following the attack, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, said Damascus "has the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation," but that it was up to the relevant authorities to choose the time and place.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed Assad for not responding to the airstrike, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to Israel.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in the process of forming a new ruling coalition, said his new government would have to deal with weapons "being stockpiled near us and threatening our cities and civilians" … an apparent reference to the deteriorating situation in Syria.
Barak also said during the press conference in Germany that President Bashar Assad's fall is imminent and would serve as a major blow to Israel's regional archrival Iran.
"Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left," Barak said. Assad's fall "is coming imminently" and when it happens," he added."This will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah."
"I think that they will pay the price," he added.