|Syria fingers Israel for research center bombing
Syria accused Israel of staging an air raid on a military research center yesterday, a day after a peace envoy issued a new warning of the 22-month conflict spilling over into neighboring states.
The strike came as an opposition chief laid down conditions for talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and as world outrage at a massacre piled pressure on all parties to halt their bloodletting, AFP reports.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned of a “catastrophic’’ situation in the war-torn country at a conference in Kuwait where international donors pledged more than the targeted US$1.5 billion in aid for stricken Syrians.
The Syrian army accused Israel of launching a dawn strike targeting a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus, in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
“Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,’’ the general command said.
The warplanes entered Syria's airspace via Mount Hermon, or Jabal el-Sheikh in Arabic, at low altitude and under the radar, the army said, adding that two site workers were killed.
“They... carried out an act of aggression, bombarding the site, causing large-scale material damage and destroying the building,’’ state television quoted the military as saying.
The army also denied reports Israeli forces had launched a strike overnight on a weapons convoy from Syria near the border with Lebanon.
The United States declined to comment on the reported strike by Israel, whose military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi is currently in Washington for talks with top US general Martin Dempsey.
“I'd refer you to the government of Israel for questions about deliberations or actions that they may or may not have taken,’’ White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
The reported air strike came after the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, issued a new warning of the conflict spilling over.
“None of the neighbors is immune to the fallout consequences of the conflict,’’ he told the UN Security Council.
In a surprise move on yesterday, opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib said on his Facebook page that he was ready for conditional talks with Assad's representatives.
The Syrian National Coalition leader said the conditions included releasing “160,000 detainees’’ and that embassies abroad renew the passports of exiled citizens.
Until now, Syria's main opposition groups have said they are prepared to talk only if Assad steps down.
“I announce I am ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul,'' Khatib said.
“While it is not right for anyone to bargain with the freedom for which our people have paid so dearly in blood, I say there are basic conditions before I sit down with representatives of the regime.’’
But he added that “we cannot trust a regime that kills children, attacks bakeries bombards universities, destroys Syria's infrastructure and massacres innocent people.’’