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Israel Hints at Responsibility for Syria Strike

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gestures during the annual Security Conference in Munich February 3, 2013.
Israel is suggesting for the first time that it may have been responsible for an air raid last week in Syria.

After days of silence, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has hinted his country was behind last week's air strike in Syria.

Damascus accused Israel of attacking a research facility last Wednesday, while foreign media reports said Israeli jets hit a convoy transferring Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Speaking at an international security conference in Germany, Barak said Israel had warned in advance the transfer of sophisticated weapons to terrorist groups is a red line that must not be crossed.

“That is another proof that when we say something we mean it. We say that we do not think it should be allowable to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon,” said Barak.

In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as saying the air strike is proof Israel is conspiring with foreign forces to destabilize Syria.

The growing tensions with Syria coincide with Israel’s formation of a new government, two weeks after national elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the proliferation of heavy weapons in Syria poses a major challenge as he begins a third term in office.

But as he began off coalition talks in Jerusalem on Sunday, Netanyahu said the biggest threat Israel faces is from Iran.

He said the top priority of his new government will be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But Israel sees it as a threat to its existence, and has warned a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities remains an option.

Netanyahu sounded a more conciliatory note on the Palestinians, saying he hopes to revive peace talks that have been deadlocked for four years over Jewish settlement expansion. He said he plans to form a broad national unity government with Israeli moderates who support the peace process.