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Barak: We're following Syrian WMD issue closely
By YAAKOV LAPPIN AND DANIEL CLINTON
'Time' magazine says US gave Israel "green light" for more attacks; defense minister says there's a possibility of weapons transfer to Hezbollah following inevitable fall of Assad; refuses to address reported IAF strike.
The Israel Air Force struck multiple Syrian targets in Wednesday’s reported
aerial attacks, Time magazine said in a report on its website over the
One of the targets struck on the Lebanon-Syria border included a
biological weapons research center, the report said, citing Western intelligence
The report added that the center was demolished, due to fears
that it could be taken over by radical Islamist forces among rebels fighting
against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A second strike
involved an arms convoy carrying advanced SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, while at
least one to two “additional targets” were hit the same night, the report said
without elaborating further.
Washington has given Jerusalem a “green
light” to strike more targets in Syria if necessary, Time added.
Minister Ehud Barak, who is taking part in an international defense conference
in Munich, told a local television station that Israel is closely following “the
issue of chemical weapons” in Syria, though he refused to address Wednesday’s
“We are examining the possibility of advanced weapons transfers
to Hezbollah when the collapse of Assad’s regime is complete,” he said, adding
that the Syrian president “will not survive.”
US Secretary of Defense
Leon Panetta told AFP on Friday that Washington was growing increasingly
concerned by the growing likelihood that weapons could fall into the hands of
“The chaos in Syria has obviously created an environment where
the possibility of these weapons, you know, going across the border and falling
into the hands of Hezbollah has become a greater concern,” Panetta
The secretary of defense did not confirm the details of the alleged
Israeli strikes in Syria, but stated that “the United States supports whatever
steps are taken to make sure these weapons don’t fall into the hands of
“Without discussing the communications that we have on a
regular basis with Israel or the specifics of that operation, because that’s
something they know more about, we have expressed the concern that we have to do
everything we can to make sure that sophisticated weapons like SA-17
[anti-aircraft] missiles or, for that matter chemical biological weapons, do not
fall into the hands of terrorists,” he said.
Syria’s Scientific Studies
and Research Center – better known by its French acronym, CERS – has long been
on Israel’s radar as a state organization for developing biological and chemical
weapons and missiles, and as a proliferation center for Hezbollah and
In 2010, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, the former director of
the National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Bureau, warned that CERS would
be demolished if it continued to arm terrorist organizations.
SANA news agency released a statement by the General Command of the Armed Forces
that sought to link the supposed strike to Israel’s support – and that of other
countries – for the Syrian rebels.
“Warplanes violated Syrian airspace on
Wednesday at dawn and bombarded a scientific research center responsible for
raising our levels of resistance and selfdefense,” the statement said. “This
attack came after Israel and other countries that oppose the Syrian people
utilized their pawns in Syria to attack vital military locations.”
Syria’s military also said the attack “martyred” two
workers and wounded five others. It went on to deny claims that the attack
targeted a convoy headed for Lebanon.
Iraqi daily Azzaman quoted a
Western diplomatic source as saying last week that the attack caused heavy
casualties among special Iranian Guards stationed at the Syrian
The source also said that the attack took place more than 48
hours before it was reported, eventually being leaked by Israel.
source for the story, who was interviewed by the paper in London, said the
report about a strike on a convoy to Lebanon was probably meant to divert
attention away from the main objective of the operation, in which F-16 aircraft
fired at least eight guided missiles at the facility.
The source also
said that the base was heavily fortified and contained experts from Russia and
at least 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who have been guarding the site for
years. Many of these Iranian Guards were injured.
Israel most likely got
its intelligence from penetrating deep inside Iran and from other operations
meant to penetrate Hezbollah, the source said.
Meanwhile, IAF planes
carried out a number of “mock raids” over Lebanese airspace on Friday night,
Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported.
According to the
report, beginning at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, the aircraft flew at low altitude over
the towns of Nabatiya, Iklim al-Tuffah, Marjayoun and Bint Jbail.
frequently complains that Israeli jets fly over its territory.
the Lebanese army said that four IAF planes entered Lebanese air space at 4:30
p.m on Tuesday. They were replaced four hours later by another group of planes
which flew over southern Lebanon until 2 a.m. when a third mission took over,
finally leaving at 7:55 on Wednesday morning.
The statement made no
mention of planes entering Syrian airspace.
Jerusalem Post staff and
Reuters contributed to this report. •