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Syrian opposition blasts Assad inaction on Israel

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed President Bashar Assad for not responding to a rare Israeli airstrike near Damascus, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to the Jewish state.

The opposition's sharp reaction underlines that those seeking to topple the Syrian leader might be more prepared to tangle with Israel if they came to power.

The Israeli airstrike on Wednesday, which U.S. officials said hit a convoy of anti-aircraft weapons bound for the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group, has fueled rage among Syrians who fear warplanes from Assad's forces and from Israel.

“Assad never once in his life stood up to Israel,” said Kamal Labwani, a prominent Syrian dissident and member of the Syrian National Coalition. “All he ever did is ‘reserve the right to retaliate,' but he never retaliated against anyone other than the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army.”

Syria's army chief of staff, Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub, warned on Friday against testing his country's capabilities.

That was a day after Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, said Damascus “has the option and the capacity” to retaliate, but that it was up to the relevant authorities to choose the time and place.

Up to now, the Jewish state has refrained from actions that could be interpreted as intervention in Syria's civil war. The Syrian government's response to the airstrike has been viewed as passive, and most Syrians said they did not expect their military to retaliate.

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