by our Arab Affairs correspondent
SYRIA has vowed to crush the imperialist-backed rebel gangs who killed the Defence Minister and other senior government officials in a bomb attack in central Damascus on Wednesday. The attack came on the eve of a meeting of the United Nations Security Council set to discuss renewing the UN observer mission in Syria amid Russian threats to again veto any imperialist resolution that could pave the way to Nato intervention.
Defence Minister General Daoud Rajiha and his deputy, Assef Shawkat, were attending a meeting of senior officials at the national intelligence headquarters when an explosion ripped through the building killing them and assistant vice-president General Hassan Turkmani and injuring a number of others including the national security chief and the interior minister.
A statement by the Syrian Armed Forces read out on TV said Syria was “more determined than ever” to fight terrorism and wipe out the “criminal gangs”. The statement added: “Whoever thinks that killing top commanders can twist Syria’s arm… is delusional.”
The “Free Syrian Army” and a shadowy Islamic fundamentalist group have both claimed responsibility for the bombing and waves of their gunmen have poured into Damascus spreading chaos and destruction throughout the Syrian capital to give the impression that the Assad government is on its last legs.
The rebel offensive was clearly timed to coincide with the Security Council session — a fact noted by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov who said: “A dangerous pattern [has emerged]: when the UN Security Council debates for resolving the crisis in Syria, militants launch attacks, tearing down all attempts [at a peaceful settlement].”
At UN HQ in New York the Russians say the Nato powers are trying to blackmail Russia into supporting their draft of the Syrian resolution, threatening to end the UN observer mission if a deal is not reached.
The British-proposed resolution calls on the Syrian government to take its troops and heavy weapons off the streets within 10 days or face non-military sanctions. But the resolution has been tabled under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which would allow it to be imposed militarily. Russia and People’s China are, on the other hand, continuing to back the mediation efforts of UN envoy Kofi Annan and the extension of the UN Supervision Mission for another three months.
After the bombing Information Minister Omran al Zoubi told Syrian TV that the terrorist explosion which targeted the National Security headquarters in Damascus expressed the feeling of weakness and frustration by Syria’s enemies at the strength and firmness of the Syrian Arab Army and the terrorists’ failure to undermine the Army’s unity.
Al Zoubi held the Qatari, Saudi, Turkish and Israeli intelligence agencies accountable for the terrorist bombing.
He said that certain Arab and western intelligence services and their agents who were funding and arming the terrorists were legally, politically and morally responsible for the killing, assassination and sabotage acts taking place in Syria and that they will be punished for their crimes.
He said: “We are a real state, a real people and a real army…we have always been able to defend ourselves against any aggression and conspiracies…we will hold them accountable.”
The Minister said that this cowardly terrorist act, which came a few days after successful military manoeuvres that proved the Syrian army’s firmness and ability to confront any foreign attack, showed the weakness and the frustration of Syria’s enemies and pushed those who supply the terrorists with money and arms to target the leaders of this army.
Al-Zoubi said that what happened today is “the last chapter of the US-Western-Israeli conspiracy against Syria”, stressing that the morale of the Syrian people and army is high and at their best and that Syria’s enemies are mistaken in their assessment of the strength of the people, army and the country.