ADDS DATE IMAGE WAS TAKEN, REMOVES REFERENCE TO UNVERIFIED IMAGE - In this Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 image taken from amateur video footage provided by the Media Office Of Moadamiyeh, a UN inspector, right, speaks to people about the alleged chemical weapon attack as a UN inspection team visits a makeshift hospital in Moadamiyeh, a suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus. Doctors Without Borders said 355 people were killed in an artillery barrage by regime forces on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 that included the use of toxic gas. The media office of Moadamiyeh is a loosely organized Anti-Assad activist group based in Moadamieyh which posts video and still images of violence and other developments from the region. (AP Photo/Media Office Of Moadamiyeh) Image Credit: AP

Damascus: Syrian vowed on Tuesday it will fight off any Western military strikes with what it called “surprise” defences, while raising the spectre of Islamists benefitting from such intervention.

“We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves,” said Foreign Minister Walid Mua’alem.

He was speaking at a news conference as the US and its allies edged closer to launching strikes against the Syrian regime amid accusations it used chemical weapons against its own people.

Mua’alem said the government of President Bashar Al Assad, which has been fighting an insurgency for the past 29 months, had defences that would “surprise” the world.

“Syria is not an easy case. We have defences which will surprise others,” he said in Damascus.

Russian news agency Interfax said on Tuesday that Damascus government had enough air defence systems to rebuff attacks.

“If the US army together with Nato launch an operation against Syria there won’t be an easy victory,” the agency quoted a military-diplomatic source as saying.

The Syrian minister said he was confident that Russia, a key ally of the Al Assad regime, would not abandon Damascus.

“I can assure you that Russia has not abandoned Syria. Our relations continue in all fields, and we thank Russia for its support,” Mua’alemtold reporters.

Mua’alem also charged that strikes would benefit Israel and jihadist groups in the Middle East.

“The war effort led by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly Al Nusra Front,” an Al Qaida-linked jihadist group in Syria, said Mua’alem.

He challenged Western states to present evidence that the Al Assad regime had used chemical weapons.

“We are hearing war drums around us. If they want to launch an attack against Syria, I think using the excuse of chemical weapons is not true at all. I challenge them to show what proof they have,” Mua’alem said.

The minister also said foreign military intervention in the country would not stop the government’s campaign against rebels.

“If they think they can stop the victory of our armed forces like that, they are wrong,” he stressed.

The intensifying Western moves to take military action came as a team of UN arms experts collected evidence from the site of the alleged chemical weapons attacks on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, which reportedly killed more than 300 people.

The inspectors had been due to visit the sites again on Tuesday, but Muallem said their trip had been postponed for a day because rebels failed to guarantee their security.

“Today, we were surprised by the fact that they were not able to get there because the rebels did not agree to guarantee the mission’s security. So the mission has been delayed until tomorrow,” said Mua’alem.

The group was originally due to leave Syria on Sunday, but their stay could be extended as they investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people.