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Israeli Hints at Responsibility for Syria Strike

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says last week's airstrike in Syria shows Israel is serious about preventing heavy weapons from flowing into Lebanon, appearing to hint for the first time that his government was behind the operation.

Israel has maintained official silence over the raid, which U.S. and regional security sources say involved Israeli aircraft hitting a Syrian convoy transporting anti-aircraft weapons likely intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Barak did not directly claim responsibility for the attack when he addressed the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

But in his country's first public comments about the operation, he said the airstrike was "proof that when we say something, we mean it. We say that we don't think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon." Barak said he could not add anything to what has already been reported regarding "what happened in Syria several days ago."

In the days ahead of the strike, Israeli officials warned repeatedly that Hezbollah's acquisition of surface-to-air missiles from Syria would be a "game changer."

The Syrian government has said Israeli jets targeted the Jamraya military research facility outside Damascus.

In his first reported response to the attack, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Israel Sunday of seeking to destabilize Syria and said his military forces could confront "any aggression'' against it.



Mr. Assad made the remarks in a meeting with the head of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, who pledged Tehran's full support for the Syrian people.

Syrian ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karin Ali has said Damascus has the "option" of carrying out a "surprise" response to the alleged Israeli attack. He did not elaborate his remarks to Lebanese website Al-Ahad.

Syrian government allies Iran, Russia and Hezbollah have also condemned Israel.

In Munich, meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Sunday he welcomed an offer by Syrian opposition chief Mouaz al-Khatib to engage in direct talks with Mr. Assad's government under certain conditions.

Salehi's comments echoed those a day earlier from his Russian counterpart and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, each of whom praised Khatib's offer to enter negotiations.

But the proposal does not have unified backing from other Syrian opposition leaders, many of whom expressed unease at Khatib's decision to speak with Mr. Assad's main backers, Russia and Iran.

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