The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 7, 2013

Palestinian group says Syria OKs attacks on Israel

(Continued)

BEIRUT —

While the group earned notoriety for its past attacks on Israel, it has been eclipsed in the past 20 years by the other Islamic militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel's government has not formally confirmed involvement in the strikes on Syria. However, Israeli officials have said the attacks were meant to prevent advanced Iranian weapons from reaching Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, an ally of Syria and foe of Israel.

The airstrikes raised the possibility of a wider regional conflict with Syria, which is already engulfed in a civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people, as its focal point.

Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, has condemned the Israeli attacks and warned of possible retaliation.

But on Tuesday, Iran's foreign minister said it is Syria's Arab neighbors — not Tehran — who should respond to the Israeli strikes.

Speaking to reporters in Amman, Jordan, Ali Akbar Salehi said Arab nations "must stand by their brethren in Damascus."

The Israeli strikes were met with condemnation from Arab nations, even those who oppose Assad and support the rebellion against him, but the protests stopped there.

Iran is deeply concerned with the fate of the Assad regime, which has allowed Syrian territory to serve as a conduit for Iranian weapons and other support to reach their proxy, Hezbollah. Tehran has supplied cash and weapons to help the Syrian government in its efforts to crush the anti-Assad revolt.

Salehi warned of the possible repercussions if the government in Damascus was to fall.

"The fallout from a vacuum in Syria will have adverse effects on its neighbors and the whole region," he said. "There will be serious repercussions from a vacuum. It will be grave and nobody can predict the results."

___

Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

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