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Middle East

President Assad: Syria's military is capable of facing Israel


Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has said that his country's military is capable of facing Israel, despite the country's bloody civil war, in his first comments since Israel launched as many as three large attacks on targets inside Syria at the weekend.

Syrian officials said earlier in the week that the Israeli action amounted to a “declaration of war” though analysts are not persuaded that Syria has sufficient military might to inflict serious damage on Israel. In his comments, Assad stopped short of promising retaliation, but said the Syrians “are capable of facing Israel's ventures.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants inside Syria have been told that Assad's regime will not stop them attacking targets in Israel, as the government in Damascus weighs its options in response to Israel's weekend airstrikes on Syria.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, a group based in Damascus, said that the Syrian authorities had told them to go ahead with attacks from the Syrian- controlled Golan Heights, which border the Jewish state.

According to the Israeli newspaper, Hareetz, Anwar Raja, of the PFLP General Command in Damascus, said the Assad's government had given the group “a green light to attack Israeli targets”. The development comes as Syria and Hezbollah - the Islamist group based in Lebanon - weigh how to respond to the Israeli intervention.

It is not known what firepower the PFLP-General Command possess, but it is unlikely to amount to much that can do serious damage. Israeli officials stress that any invention is not designed to topple the Syrian regime but to prevent Hezbollah from getting advanced weapons systems.