BEIJING — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed his country’s right to self defense after China expressed concern over airstrikes on Syria attributed to Israel.
Netanyahu visited a Shanghai synagogue and thanked China for sheltering Jews during World War II, saying such aid is no longer needed. He flew into Shanghai Monday and meets Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing Wednesday.
“Today we have a state of our own, an army of our own,” Netanyahu said at the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, which once served 30,000 Jewish refugees who found shelter in the city during the war. “We need not beg to be saved. We can defend ourselves.”
Netanyahu didn’t mention Syria and declined to answer questions about the airstrikes while traveling to Shanghai Monday. Syria threatened retaliation after an aerial strike on the outskirts of Damascus on May 5 and another on May 3.
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The airstrikes prompted China to call for restraint. Chinese leaders have resisted U.S.-led efforts to clamp down on Syria, vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions against President Bashar al-Assad.
“China is gravely concerned about the issue and calls for the involved parties to remain restrained and avoid any actions that might escalate the tension,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing Monday.
Israeli officials who asked not to be named said the attacks were meant to prevent advanced Iranian weapons from reaching Lebanon’s anti-Israel Hezbollah militia, rather than to weaken the Assad regime, the Associated Press reported.
Netanyahu is in China until May 10 on a trip that’s meant to open the Chinese market to Israeli companies and press for tougher action over Syria and Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
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