Assad Counting on Russia to Prevent Israeli Air Strikes

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, in Oct., 2015. (Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

YERUSHALAYIM - In his first public statement since last Friday’s clash with Israeli air force jets, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared that “it is our right to defend our country, and not only that but we do not base our policies on the statements of officials in Israel.”

The comment came in particular in response to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s threat to wipe out Syrian air defense systems if they targeted Israeli aircraft again.

Assad was speaking to Russian media representatives following a three-hour meeting with a Russian parliamentary delegation that arrived Monday in Damascus for an official visit.

The Syrian president also said that “Damascus counts on Russia to take a role in order to prevent Israel from attacking Syria in the future.”

In another reference to Russian involvement in the region, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations claimed Sunday night that Russia has warned Israel to rein in its air force on the Syrian border.

“Putin sent a clear message,” said the ambassador, Bashar Jaafari. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over,” Haaretz quoted him as saying.

Israeli jets have struck periodically in Syrian territory to interdict shipments and destroy stockpiles of weapons earmarked for Hezbollah.