Assad says Syria received Russian missile shipment

A Shi'ite anti-government protester holds up a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in Syria, in Sanaa May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A Shi’ite anti-government protester holds up a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in Syria, in Sanaa May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Syria has received the first shipment of an air defense system from Russia, President Bashar al-Assad said, sending a signal of military strength days before an EU arms embargo on the war-torn country lapses.

“Syria has received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets,” Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar newspaper quoted Assad as saying in an interview due to be broadcast later on Thursday.

More of the missiles would arrive soon, he was quoted as saying.

Russia has said it would deliver the missile system to the Syrian government over Western objections, saying the move would help stabilize the regional balance.

A staunch ally of the Assad government, Moscow has appeared to grow more defiant since the European Union let its arms embargo on Syria expire, opening up the possibility of the West arming the rebels battling to topple the president. The embargo lapses on June 1.

The United States, France and Israel have all called on Russia to stop the missile delivery.

An interview with Assad will be released on Thursday on Al Manar, a television station linked to Assad’s ally, the Shi’ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.

More than 80,000 people have died in Syria since peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule led to a civil war that has pitted the president’s forces and his ally, Hezbollah, against Syrian rebels and a flow of Sunni Islamist militants who have come to help them from abroad.

Moscow says the lapsing of the EU embargo complicates U.S. and Russian-led efforts to set up a peace conference between the Syrian government and its opponents, who want an immediate end to four decades of Assad family rule.

The Syrian leader said he planned to go to the “Geneva 2″ conference, al-Akhbar reported, though he was unconvinced of a fruitful outcome and said he would continue to fight the militants.

THREATS AGAINST ISRAEL

Officials in Israel, the United States’ main ally in the region, say the S-300 could reach deep into the Jewish state and threaten flights over its main commercial airport near Tel Aviv.

Al-Akhbar said Assad also stressed ties between his forces and Hezbollah militants now openly fighting on the Syrian side of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier.

“Syria and Hezbollah are part of the same axis,” al-Akhbar quoted him as telling al-Manar.

“The Syrian army is the one fighting and leading the battles against the armed group, and this fight will continue until all those who are called terrorists are eliminated.”

Syria sits along the faultlines of several regional and ethnic conflicts, and violence in the country is increasingly seeping across its borders.

Israel, wary of any Syrian weapons being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon, has already launched three air strikes against Damascus to stop suspected transfers.

A recent string of strikes in the capital Damascus, which shook the entire city, stoked an angry reaction from Syria. State media outlets said Syria would respond to any further attacks, and would also allow militant groups to attack Israel from a shared border on the Golan Heights.

Israel captured much of Syria’s Golan Heights in a 1967 regional war and occupies the territory today, but Assad and his father, the deceased president Hafez al-Assad, had kept the border quiet for decades.

“The Syrian government will not stand in the way of any Syrian groups that want to wage a war of resistance to liberate the Golan,” Assad was quoted as saying in the upcoming interview.

Hezbollah has stated it would be willing to support groups that chose to launch operations from the Golan.

Israel has become particularly wary of the S-300 shipments. Its defense minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday, however, that the shipments were not yet on their way.

Sources close to the Russian weapons export monopoly Rosoboronexport said last year that an earlier agreed S-300 deal had been frozen due to concerns over violence in Syria. But one of the sources said Syria had already paid 20 percent of the contract price.

Earlier this month, Israel was reported to have told Washington that Syria had begun payments for a $900 million purchase of S-300s, with an initial deliver due within three months.

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Boston Marathon 2014 on high alert, Red Sox…

One year on from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings a ring of steel has been thrown around today's race, and a city stands defiant against…

News

Boston Strong: One year on from Boston Marathon…

  For more than a century the Boston Marathon has been an even centred around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there's no denying the face…

Local

Best nature spots for kids in New York…

When it comes to kids and nature, most U.S. parents agree: children should be spending more time outdoors. According to a recent survey by The…

Local

Easter 2014: The year's best bonnets

It's Easter, and that means it's time for Fifth Avenue to turn into a veritable catwalk of bonnet-wearers. The annual march, which kicks off at…

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Rangers let chance at victory slip away in…

All the Rangers had to do was hold serve in a raucous Madison Square Garden — roaring in anticipation of putting a hated rival in a 2-0 series hole.

MLB

Yankees place Ivan Nova on DL with partially…

Yankees starter Ivan Nova was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow Sunday.

NHL

Rangers never thought opening round would be 'an…

You might have thought the Metropolitan Division semifinal series was going to be a rout after watching Game 1 Thursday night. The Rangers did not.

NHL

Rangers blow two-goal lead in Game 2 loss…

The Rangers got out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 2 and the Garden was rocking. But it went downhill quickly from there.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.