France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Sunday that Syria was probably behind a bombing that wounded five French U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon earlier this week, adding that he had no proof so far.
“We have strong reasons to think that this attack came from there,” he told the TV5 Monde television channel and Le Monde newspaper, stressing that Damascus used the Lebanese Hezbollah for such attacks in the past.
“I don’t have proof,” he stressed, while adding that the group was “Syria’s armed wing.”
A roadside bomb wounded five French peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Friday, in the third attack this year on United Nations forces deployed near the frontier with Israel.
France, alongside Britain, Germany and the United States, has led a push for the U.N. Human Rights Council to take up the issue of Syria again.
In October, Russia and China vetoed a resolution that would have condemned Damascus’ crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and threatened possible sanctions.
U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has said more than 4,000 people have been killed in a government crackdown on dissent in Syria since an anti-regime protest movement broke out in March.
Juppe said the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had lost all legitimacy and Paris was pushing Russia to change its stance at the United Nations where Moscow has refused to endorse any Security Council resolution against Syria.
“We are trying to convince Russia to get out of the isolation that it’s put itself in,” he said.
Assad downfall blow to Hezbollah: Israel
Also on Sunday, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak spoke of the possible downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying it would be a “blessing” for the Middle East but a blow to Iran and Hezbollah.
“A downfall of Assad would be a blessing for the Middle East,” Barak was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency (APA) at an event in Vienna. Barak also predicted Assad and his clique would be forced out of power within weeks.
“The Assad family is doomed and no one knows what will happen afterwards.”
A statement issued by the Israeli defense ministry quoted him as saying: “We have been witness in the past few days to battles between those loyal to the Assad family and rebel forces.
“This is the continuation of the decline of the Assad family which will lead in the end to the end of its rule. We cannot tell what will happen … In any event it will be a blow to the Iran-Hezbollah axis,” the statement added.
Politicians and diplomats, meanwhile, have been warning that the unrest in Syria could spill into Lebanon, whose government is dominated by the pro-Syrian militant group Hezbollah.
Five French members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were wounded Friday when a bomb targeted their patrol on the outskirts of the Lebanese coastal city of Tyre. Two passers-by were also wounded.
The UNIFIL force stationed in the south of the country is considered an easy target if unrest does spread to Lebanon.
Juppe said: “We have again asked the Lebanese government to protect UNIFIL.”
Spain currently commands the 12,100-strong UNIFIL force, which was founded in 1978 and expanded after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
France has one of the largest contingents with 1,300 soldiers.