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Iraq intervening in Syria: opposition
by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) March 3, 2013

Israel says closely monitoring Syria battlefronts
Jerusalem (AFP) March 3, 2013 - Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday that Israel is closely monitoring the battlefronts in Syria after press reports that rebels had seized Scud missiles from regime forces.

But Yaalon downplayed any threat to Israel from the Scuds -- long-range surface-to-surface missiles which Iraq's executed dictator Saddam Hussein used against the Jewish state in the 1991 Gulf War.

"I don't think that they have the capacity to fire missiles at our territory," Yaalon told military radio, in reaction to reports Syrian rebels had seized Scuds in northeast Syria.

Rebels have made significant advances in northern Syria where they control large swathes of territory, having captured army bases and airports.

Speaking a day after Syrian shells hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Yaalon reiterated that his country does not wish to be involved in Syria's civil war.

"We are monitoring the situation closely. As long as it does not threaten us, we will not intervene. At this stage we don't see any threat," he said.

On Saturday, mortar rounds believed to be have been fired from Syria hit the southern part of the Golan, falling in an open area without causing injuries or damage, the army reported.

Yaalon said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be "held responsible for everything that happens along the border."

There have been several instances of gunfire or mortar shells hitting the Israeli side of the Golan over the past year.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognised by the international community. It is currently upgrading a security fence along the armistice line.

A key Syrian opposition group on Sunday accused the Iraqi government of intervening in Syria and "attacking the Syrian people", a day after deadly border clashes between rebels and Iraqi forces.

"After the Iraqi government headed by (Prime Minister) Nuri al-Maliki gave political and intelligence support to the Syrian regime... the Baghdad regime has moved on to a new level of intervention in Syrian affairs," said the Syrian National Council.

It charged that Baghdad was "attacking the Syrian people, their basic rights and their territorial sovereignty."

An Iraqi official said on Sunday that an Iraqi soldier was killed and three people wounded, including a soldier, inside northern Iraq during a gunfight the day before between Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels at the Yaarubiyeh border crossing.

Four Syrian soldiers were also treated at an Iraqi hospital after the clash, the official added.

The SNC has called on the Arab League and the United Nations to condemn Baghdad for the attack "on Syrian sovereignty", saying the international community should "at the very least condemn this aggressive behaviour".

Baghdad has pointedly avoided calling for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is locked in a bloody civil war with rebels opposed to his regime, and has instead urged an end to violence by all parties.

But US officials have repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to halt Iranian flights to Syria via Iraqi airspace, which they say are transporting weapons to Assad's forces.

As the violence has escalated in Syria, the country's crisis has spilled over into neighbouring countries Lebanon and Iraq.

Iraqi soldier killed by fire from Syria: ministry
Mosul, Iraq (AFP) March 3, 2013 - An Iraqi soldier was killed and three people including a soldier were wounded inside north Iraq in fire exchanged between regime forces and rebels in Syria, the defence ministry spokesman in Baghdad said.

The casualties were caused by "fighting at the Yaarubiyeh border crossing inside Syria" on Saturday, Mohammed al-Askari told AFP by telephone.

"The Iraqi forces that were hit by the fire were about 600 metres (yards) away from the crossing" into Iraq's Nineveh province, Askari said.

He also said that four wounded Syrian soldiers were treated at an Iraqi hospital during Saturday's fighting.

Mohammed Rahim al-Shammari, the head of the Nineveh provincial council security and defence committee, told AFP that no one was controlling the Syrian side of the crossing on Sunday, and that there was no activity there.

Baghdad has pointedly avoided calling for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is locked in a bloody civil war with rebels opposed to his regime, and has instead urged an end to violence by all parties.

But US officials have repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to halt Iranian flights to Syria via Iraqi airspace, which they say are transporting weapons to Assad's forces.


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