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Israel Warns Syria on Action to Prevent Arms Transfers

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin warned Syria today that his country would act to prevent any further shipments of advanced arms to Lebanon’s Hezbollah’s militia.

“From our perspective, if there is a transfer of arms we will do everything we can to stop it,” Elkin said today in an interview with Army Radio. Shipments of advanced arms outside Syria “changes the status quo” in the region, he said.

The warning follows three air strikes this year on Syrian convoys and installations. Israeli officials have declined to say whether their military carried out the assaults. They have repeatedly voiced concern about weapons falling into the hands of anti-Israel militants amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war.

After the latest strike on military facilities in a Damascus suburb on May 5, Syria warned it might retaliate with attacks on the Israeli-occupied section of the Golan Heights.

Two mortars fired from Syrian territory landed yesterday in the Golan, with no injuries or damage reported. A previously unknown Palestinian militant group, the Halal Abd al-Qader al-Husseini brigade, claimed responsibility for the attacks on the area, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. The Israeli military had said it appeared to be stray fire from internal Syrian fighting.

An unidentified Israeli official told the New York Times yesterday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “risks forfeiting his regime” if Syria or “its terrorist proxies” try to attack Israel.

“No one is threatening Assad,” Elkin said. “We haven’t intervened in the Syria civil war over a long period -- perhaps unlike some other countries -- but we do have red lines where our citizens’ security is concerned.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss the Syria conflict. Putin said afterward that “in this critical period it is especially important to avoid any moves that can destabilize the situation.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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