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China criticises Israel's Syria raid as Netanyahu visits

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

China on Monday implicitly criticised Israel's air strikes in Syria as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Shanghai for a visit.

The raids on military sites outside Damascus a day earlier, believed to target weapons headed for Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, raised new fears of Syria's 26-month-long conflict spilling over into the wider region.

"We are opposed to the use of force and believe that the sovereignty of any country should be respected," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing when asked about the raids.

She added that China urged all sides to "exercise restraint and refrain from actions that may escalate tensions".

Her comments came as Netanyahu arrived on a five-day trip to China, which will end in Beijing with meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

It is the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since 2007, and overlaps with a three-day trip by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to Beijing, where he met Xi and other officials on Monday.

Abbas is due to leave on Tuesday and the two Middle Eastern leaders are not expected to meet while in China.

Sunday's strikes were the second such reported attack in 48 hours aimed at preventing weapons from reaching Israel's regional arch-foe Hezbollah.

The UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for restraint after the event while Syrian officials warned that "missiles are ready" to retaliate.

US President Barack Obama, speaking after the first reported attack this week, said Israel was justified in protecting itself.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 70,000 people since it erupted in March 2011.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130506/china-criticises-israels-syria-raid-netanyahu-visits