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Normally, an Israeli strike on an Arab country would trigger a volley of condemnation and outrage. So it was surprising that the air strike on Syria last week by Tel Aviv went largely unnoticed in Arab capitals. It’s true that there is a revolution going on against President Bashar Al Assad, which has made him a persona non grata, and Syria is in tatters, both economically and politically, but that should not be used as an excuse by a foreign country to abuse its sovereignty and therefore the Israeli aggression needs to be condemned in the strongest terms.
According to a US official, Wednesday’s air strike targeted surface-to-air missiles and an adjacent military complex believed to house chemical agents. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak confirmed in Munich that it has carried out the raid, and commented arrogantly at a security conference that the raid was “another proof that when we say something we mean it.”
Israel and the US are worried that the chaos in Syria would allow Lebanon’s Hezbollah to obtain sophisticated weapons from Damascus. That worry is likely to morph into a reality only when Assad loses control, and the country plunges into absolute lawlessness. Assad is still in control and the revolution is showing no signs of an early end. And it’s too early for him to do anything that desperate dictators do when they lose power.
Predictably, Assad has lashed out at the strike and accused Israel of trying to destabilise the country and threatened to retaliate. That threat is unlikely to materialise because his army is busy killing his own people, and he just can’t afford to open another front which could threaten his survival and expedite the exit from power.
Amid the deafening silence about the Israeli aggression, one voice has been loud and clear: that Turkey. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted boldly by speaking the truth. Erdogan accused Ankara of waging state terrorism and called the strike an unacceptable violation of international law. He also lambasted the immunity granted to Israel by the international community, adding that “those who have been treating Israel like a spoilt child should expect anything from them, at any time”. Ankara has been supporting the revolution against Assad and has been an avowed critic of the Syrian leader, but that hasn’t prevented it from looking at the Israel aggression impartially. Arab countries too need to shed their inhibitions and criticise the Israeli action. Not that Israel will feel disheartened or will think before launching another strike, such reactions help to clarify the positions of countries and will also to prevent the situation in Syria from worsening.
Even rebels in Syria would not like to see Israeli missiles falling in their midst.