Syria’s information minister on Saturday denied Israeli claims his country is developing new weapons and test-fired Scud missiles last week, calling the accusations an “expression of Israel’s hostile intentions.”
In remarks carried by Syria’s official news agency, Mahdi Dakhlallah said the Israeli allegations were also part of a pressure campaign against Syria.
Israeli military officials said that Syria test-fired three Scud missiles late last week, reinforcing Israeli worries about Damascus’ ability to deliver a missile-borne chemical attack against Israeli civilian targets. They said one of the missiles broke up over Turkey.
The Turkish military said apparent missile debris from Syria landed on two agricultural villages in the southern province of Hatay, causing no injuries or damage.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said Syria had apologized for the incident and assured Turkey it was “just an accident” that occurred during routine military training.
Israeli security officials said the missile test was Syria’s first since 2001. They said they saw the launches as a Syrian gesture of defiance to the United States and the United Nations, which pushed Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a critic of Syria’s influence in Lebanon.
Lebanon is in the midst of parliamentary elections that the anti-Syrian opposition hopes to win and end Damascus’ control of the legislature.
Dakhlallah said the Israeli accusations were part of efforts to pressure Syria.
“It’s normal for a state to possess all defense potentials, especially if it is in a region shrouded with tension, aggression and continuous Israeli occupation, in addition to Israel’s unbridled desire to expand the circle of aggression and occupation,” he said.
He warned against the danger posed by Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and called on the international community to free the Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction.