The civil war in Syria between rebel forces and President Bashar Assad's Syrian army, escalated this weekend when Israel bombed Damascus, the capital of Syria.
With its standard rationale familiar to Gaza residents, Israel released an official story that claimed the bombing was carried out for defensive purposes.
The Reuters story in the Jerusalem Post, reported that the Israeli airstrikes, which killed "dozens of Syrian soldiers close to Damascus," were "downplayed" by Israeli leaders.
The "downplaying" consisted of Israel's claim it was not attempting to influence the Syrian civil war, but wanted only to "stop Iranian missiles reaching Lebanese Hezbollah militants."
To bolster its official version of the raid, veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Israel Radio that "Israel wants to avoid ...an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime." (It should be noted that Hezbollah and Assad's government are allies)
The Post rushed past the fact that "dozens of Syrian soldiers" were killed outside Damascus. There was no mention, not even a sympathetic nod to the possibility, that civilians may also have died in the attacks.
Instead, the Post story got to the heart of the matter, the heart, that is, for Israel:
"Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports."
Major General Yair Golan, Israel's commander on both the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, was quick to reassure "fearful" Israelis.
The general was out jogging with troops when a Reuters reporter caught up with him. He told the reporter, "There are no winds of war." Then he added, "Do you see tension? There is no tension. Do I look tense to you?"
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was also calm. The Prime Minister had already begun a a scheduled visit to Beijing, which the Post story indicated was "an apparent sign of confidence Syrian President Bashar Assad would not retaliate."
Netanyahu received veiled criticism in Beijing where Chinese leaders urged "restraint without mentioning Israel by name." China and Russia are the two major powers who are Syrian President Assad's "protectors" in the UN Security Council.
Russia said the strikes by Israel "caused particular alarm," a mild reprimand to a nation that has just bombed a neighbor with whom it is not officially at war.
President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry were expected to meet Tuesday, the Jerusalem Post reported, "to try to tackle differences over the Syrian crisis."
In an Independent story that appeared January 25, before the Israeli bombing of Damascus, Russia's Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev said that President Assad's chances of retaining power in Syria are getting "smaller and smaller by the day."
"The statement is the most explicit admission from the regime's chief ally that its days may be numbered, but Mr Medvedev also reiterated that the regime must not be toppled by external forces.
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