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Syria accuses Israel of bombing airport

By Agencies in Damascus | China Daily | Updated: 2014-12-09 08:06

UN asked to impose sanctions in response for 'heinous crime'

Syria accused Israel of bombing its main international airport on Sunday as the UN announced talks with rebel leaders on a cease-fire in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

Israel has launched a series of airstrikes inside Syria since the outbreak of the country's unrest in 2011, including raids reportedly targeting Iranian rockets bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"This afternoon, the Israeli enemy targeted two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and Damascus International Airport," the army said in a statement.

It said the strikes caused damage but that nobody was hurt.

Both civilian and military aircraft operate at the airport, which lies southeast of Damascus near flashpoint areas that include Eastern Ghouta, large parts of which are in rebel hands.

There was no immediate reaction from Israeli authorities, but the Syrian army reiterated its claim that the Jewish state is helping rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

"This direct aggression by Israel was carried out to help the terrorists in Syria, after our armed forces secured important victories in Deir Ezzor, Aleppo and elsewhere," the army said.

Sunday's air raids proved "Israel's direct support for terrorism in Syria", it said, using the government's collective term to refer to armed rebels and jihadists fighting in Syria.

Later, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said it had asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, describing the strikes as "a heinous crime against Syria's sovereignty", according to state news agency SANA.

In the past year, Israel has reportedly carried out a number of raids on Syrian targets and on positions of the Lebanese Shiite militant Hezbollah, an ally of both Syria and arch-foe Iran.

In March, Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian army positions just hours after a bomb wounded four Israeli soldiers on the Golan, one severely.

Aleppo cease-fire talks

Sunday's violence came as the UN envoy to Syria announced he will meet in Turkey with rebel leaders from Aleppo to discuss a possible freeze in fighting.

Staffan de Mistura "will travel very soon to Gaziantep (in Turkey) to discuss his plan with key rebel groups from Aleppo", said his spokeswoman, Juliette Touma.

She did not specify when exactly the talks will take place.

De Mistura has been pushing efforts for cease-fires in limited areas of Syria to lay the groundwork for peace talks to resolve the country's devastating civil war.

Speaking to AFP from Turkey, rebel leader Sobhi al-Rifai said: "We are ready for a meeting and for dialogue with anyone to discuss the Syrian issue."

But Rifai, who is part of the Revolutionary Command Council, a major rebel umbrella organization, did not confirm whether his group or any other faction will meet the UN envoy.

AFP - Reuters

 Syria accuses Israel of bombing airport

A Syrian refugee makes tea inside a caravan at the Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on Sunday. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

(China Daily 12/09/2014 page11)

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