Palestinian militants in Syria: Assad grants green light to attack Israel
Official in Damascus-based PFLP says it received nod from regime to strike Israeli targets from the Syrian-controlled part of Golan Heights; Iran FM: Syria's Arab neighbors, not Tehran, must decide how to respond to Israeli attacks.
A spokesman for a Palestinian militant group in Syria said Tuesday that it had received a nod from President Bashar Assad's regime to attack Israel following alleged back-to-back Israeli airstrikes over the weekend.
Anwar Raja of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command said the regime has given "a green light" for the group "to attack Israeli targets" from the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.
Raja did not elaborate on how the alleged approval was conveyed to PFLP-GC fighters but he stressed that there was no official government note.
Most Palestinians in Syria remained on the sidelines of the 2-year-old conflict, but PFLP-GC has fought alongside government troops against the rebels trying to topple Assad.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, also weighed into the matter, saying Tuesday during a visit to the Jordanian capital Amman that it was Syria's Arab neighbors - not Tehran - who should respond to the alleged air strikes near Damascus.
Arab nations "must stand by their brethren in Damascus," Salehi said, warning also of "serious repercussions from a political vacuum" should Assad's regime collapse. Salehi also said he believes Israel "would not dare strike" at suspected Iranian nuclear sites but that his country is "prepared for the worst."
Mortar shell from Syria strikes Golan
Also Tuesday, a mortar shell fired from Syria landed in the central Golan Heights near the border fence in Tel Fares. There were no reports of casualties nor damage.
The Israel Defense Forces said it was most likely an errant shell fired by one of the sides battling in Syria. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) stationed on the border has been notified.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making his case to Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia to take a tougher stance on Syria.
Kerry, who arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, is hoping to change Russia's thinking on Syria with two new angles: American threats to arm the Syrian rebels and evidence of chemical weapon attacks by the Assad regime.
Russia, alongside China, has blocked U.S.-led efforts three times at the United Nations to pressure Assad into stepping down.
U.S. officials are hoping Syria's behavior could shift Russia's stance. "We have consistently, in our conversations with the Russians and others, pointed clearly to Assad's behavior as proof that further support for the regime is not in the interest of the Syrian people or in the interest of the countries that have in the past supported Assad," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
On Monday evening, two mortar shells were fired from Syria to Israel, and landed in an open area near the border fence. In this case too, the IDF notified UNDOF.
The Haifa airport which was closed on Sunday due to the tensions in northern Israel was reopened on Monday, and El Al and Arkia commercial flights are set to resume.
Without confirming foreign reports saying Israel was behind both attacks last Friday and Sunday, American officials said Monday morning that the U.S. received no early warning of the strikes. The New York Times quoted a Syrian official who claimed that the strike hit an elite military unit. A Syrian doctor told the paper that at least 100 soldiers were killed in the attack.