Syria: Israel's Scud accusation may be pretense for attack
U.S. raises concerns with Damascus after reports Syria had transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah.
Israel might be preparing a military strike against Syria by accusing Damascus of supplying Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon with long-range Scud missiles, the Syrian government said on Thursday.
President Shimon Peres on Tuesday accused Syria of sending Hezbollah long-range Scuds. The United States said on Wednesday it was "increasingly concerned" about the transfer of more sophisticated weaponry to the Syrian and Iranian-backed Islamist group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.
"Israel aims from this to raise tension further in the region and to create an atmosphere for probable Israeli aggression," the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The Syrian Arab Republic denies these fabrications."
Hezbollah hit Israel with shorter range rockets during the 2006 war as at that time it lacked a longer-ranger missile capability.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Scuds were smuggled to Hezbollah in the past two months.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted earlier this week that Israel does not have aggressive intentions in the area.
"We expect and recommend that everyone keep the current calm but as we've said, the introduction of systems that disturb the balance endanger the stability and the calm, he said.
The United States said the move would have a possible "destabilizing effect" on the region. The presence of more advanced missiles in Lebanon could raise the prospects of a pre-emptive strike by Israel.
Hezbollah is on the U.S. terrorism blacklist, but is part of Lebanon's unity government.
The Lebanese government has had no comment on the U.S. allegations. But Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah said the comments made by the White House were interference.
"This American interference that has completely adopted the Israeli position, is condemned and rejected by Lebanon. This U.S. position presents a threat to Lebanon," Fadlallah said.
"These American pressures and Israeli intimidation will not affect our choices and our commitment to defend our country by all means," Fadlallah told Reuters.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in February that if Israel struck Beirut's airport, the group would hit Israel's Ben-Gurion airport.
While tension between Syria and Israel has increased this year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said last month he remained committed to seeking peace with Israwl.
Syrian and Israeli forces last fought each other in Lebanon in the 1980s. A 1974 ceasefire has kept the front between the two quiet on the Golan Heights, which Israeli captured in the 1967 Siz-Day War.
The two sides held four rounds of indirect peace talks in 2008, only eight months after Israeli plains bombed a target in eastern Syria the United States, Israel's chief ally, said was an illegal nuclear project.
Syria said the target was a non-nuclear military installation, and "reserved the right to respond in the appropriate time and place."