Israel mum on any IAF entry into Syria airspace
Syrian minister: Damascus seriously considering response to what Syria term IAF strike on its territory.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied on Thursday all knowledge of a Syrian report that its military fired on an Israel Air Force warplane that infiltrated its airspace and "dropped munitions."
"I don't know what you are talking about," Olmert said in response to a question on the issue from Haaretz, hours after his office and the Israel Defense Forces both said they refused to respond to Damascus' claims.
The prime minister was speaking at an event for his Kadima party to mark the Jewish New Year holiday next week. He insisted that it was business as usual, asking reporters, "do I not look relaxed?"
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Vice Premier Haim Ramon issued similar responses. "I don't know what happened there," Ramon said.
The IDF said it would not comment on the Syrian reports. "It is not our custom to respond to these kinds of reports," the IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Olmert said there would be no comment beyond the military statement.
Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal said Thursday that Damascus is giving serious consideration to its response.
"Syria reserves the right to determine the quality, type, and nature of our response to the Israeli attack," he told Al-Jazeera television. "The Syrian leadership is seriously considering its response."
Bilal, however, refused to indicate whether the reaction would be on the military or diplomatic level. He would not give any more details about the incident, but said it proved Israel's policies are based on hostility.
"Israel in fact does not want peace," said Bilal. "It cannot survive without aggression, treachery and military messages."
He said recent U.S. aid of $30 billion over 10 years to Israel encouraged its government to such arrogance that it delivered the morning message.
A Syrian Army spokesman, quoted by the official news agency, did not say how the military fired on the aircraft, but confirmed that the incident occurred at midnight Wednesday night.
"We warn the Israeli enemy government against this flagrant aggressive act, and retain the right to respond in an appropriate way," the spokesman said.
"The Israeli enemy aircraft infiltrated into the Arab Syrian territory through the northern border, coming from the Mediterranean heading toward the eastern region, breaking the sound barrier," the Syrian spokesman said.
"Air defense units confronted them and forced them to leave after they dropped some munitions in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage."
Syrian Cabinet Minister Buthaina Shaaban, speaking on Al-Jazeera television's English service, would not confirm that an IAF jet had attacked Syria, but did say the aircraft violated the country's airspace. "We are a sovereign country. They cannot do that," said Shaaban.
Al-Arabiya television reported that the incident occured in north-eastern Syria, close to the border with Turkey.
A Syrian analyst told Hebzollah's Al-Manar television that the plane was likely dumping munitions in order to maneuver, and was not carrying out a bombing raid.
The reported incident comes after months of growing tensions along the frontier and concerns that the escalation could result in war. Over the summer, Israeli and Syrian officials have repeatedly made announcements that they had no interest in hostilities.
Security official said late last month, however, that the IDF had decided that war with Syria is unlikely and was reducing its troop presence in the Golan Heights after months of tension.
The Israeli officials said recently that Syria's military had also reduced its war readiness, but offered no details as the exact steps taken by the Syrians are classified. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the information to the press.
In an interview Sunday night with Haaretz, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he saw no reason for any forthcoming military conflict between Israel and Syria.
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