Russia says Israeli strikes on Syria are unacceptable, urges restraint

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin strongly criticised Israeli air strikes on targets inside Syria on Thursday, saying Israel and other countries should avoid any action that heightened tension in the region.

Israel struck an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah near Damascus airport on Thursday, Syrian rebel and regional intelligence sources said, targeting weapons sent from Iran via commercial and military cargo planes.

“We consider that all countries should avoid any actions that lead to higher tensions in such a troubled region and call for Syrian sovereignty to be respected,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, when asked about the attack.

Russia and Israel were in constant contact about the situation in Syria through various channels, said Peskov.

Russia, whose forces are helping President Bashar al-Assad fight Islamic State and other militant groups, regularly says it is the only foreign power operating on Syrian territory at the Syrian government’s invitation and has spoken out strongly against Turkish strikes as well as a recent U.S. strike.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, separately told a news briefing on Thursday that Moscow thought air strikes like Israel’s risked playing into the hands of militant groups and of complicating the search for a political solution in Syria.

“Moscow condemns acts of aggression against Syria and considers that they are unacceptable and contradict the principles and norms of international law,” said Zakharova.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s Ambassador to Moscow last month to protest about a different Israeli military strike in Syria, near the city of Palmyra.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov/Andrew Osborn; Editing by Kevin O’Flynn