Syria protests to UN on reported Israeli air strike

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 12 (Reuters) Syria protested to the United Nations about Israel's reported air strike against its territory, accusing the Jewish state of aggression and ''flagrant violation'' of its airspace, according to a letter circulated.

Syria on Thursday accused Israel of the bombing and said it was able to respond to the Jewish state's ''aggression and treachery.'' Israel has declined to comment on the charge.

In the letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Security Council members, Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, said Israeli aircraft, as they departed, ''dropped some munitions but without managing to cause any human casualties or material damage.'' The ambassador did not ask for any specific action but said he was drawing attention to ''this flagrant violation by Israel of its airspace and to its aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.'' Ja'afari said yesterday that ''if the international community persists in disregarding these Israeli actions (it) is likely to subject the region and international peace and security to serious consequences that may be difficult to control.'' He said Israel had repeatedly disregarded its obligations under a disengagement agreement with Syria as well as international law.

At the time of the incident, one Syrian official said troops ''fired heavily'' at Israeli planes, although the Syrian state news agency spoke only of air defenses ''confronting'' them -- a phrase that several analysts said could mean simply locking on radar rather than opening fire.

Israeli officials, speaking privately, do not deny Syrian accusations that Israel conducts such missions over Syria, which has left analysts pondering why last Thursday's incident ended differently.

Retired senior Israeli diplomat Alon Liel, who has worked with Syrian representatives to promote negotiations, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert risked giving Syria grounds for war at a time when, he believed, both sides had a chance to talk peace.

It is more than a year since Syrian guns opened fire on Israeli aircraft. Israeli planes last struck in 2003 across a border that remains tense but largely quiet some 34 years after the last war between the two neighbors ended in an edgy cease-fire.

Military analysts say Israel has conducted reconnaissance flights over Syria to probe its defenses.

Reuters TB VP0418

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