The air force attacked Hezbollah targets on the Lebanon-Syria border on Monday night, according to Lebanese and other Arab media sources. The IDF has declined to comment.
The strikes targeted a “qualitative” weapons shipment to Hezbollah, Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper reported, quoting unnamed military sources.
In all, four Israeli planes launched four rockets in the Janta area, in the mountains separating the east Lebanon village of Nabi Sheet from Syrian.
The Janta area houses a Hezbollah post, where recruitment and training of fighters are carried out. Janta is also a well-known route for smuggling arms between Lebanon and Syria, the Daily Star’s source said.
The target was a Hezbollah missile base, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Al-Arabiya television, citing unconfirmed reports, said Hezbollah’s “moving convoy” was attacked because it tried to bring ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon.
Despite these efforts, however, Hezbollah has arm itself with about 100,000 rockets and missiles, including a small number of satellite-guided projectiles that can be used to target key Israeli installations and infrastructure.
The growing size of global jihadi operatives such as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and, of course, various al-Qaida organizations such as al-Qaida Central Command and al-Qaida in Iraq present another threat.
In addition to Iranian-made arms smuggled into Lebanon, there is concern Russian-made weapons are making their way to Hezbollah hands.
Yiftah Shapir, head of the Middle East Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told the Post some of the weapons Russia is providing the Assad regime have no apparent use in the war against rebel forces, but would be highly effective in attacks against Israel. One example is the SA-17 or “Buk” surface-to-air missile. The Syrian rebels have no air force, so why would the regime need these types of ballistic weapons? The rebels do not have a navy either, so why do Assad’s forces need Russian-made P800 Yakhont supersonic antiship missiles? The regime might want them to protect itself against Turkey. Another, more likely possibility, is to use them against Israel.
If Hezbollah acquires these weapons, they would represent a dangerous upgrade in the Shi’ite organization’s capabilities vis-à-vis Israel.
In August 2013, anonymous US officials told The New York Times that a July 5 IAF strike on a Syrian warehouse near Latakia targeted a cache of these Yakhont missiles, which were, it was reported, destined for Hezbollah.
Israel has very limited goals in Syria and has no interest in taking sides in the civil war. Keeping the regime in power is not a clear Israeli interest since, unlike Hafez Assad, with whom Israel managed to maintain a modus vivendi, Basher Assad has been unreliable. The alternatives to the regime are, however, even worse.
Israel, an oasis of stability in a highly volatile region, has restricted its involvement in Syria and Lebanon to a minimum. Nevertheless, Jerusalem cannot afford to ignore the situation due to the severe threat presented by the smuggling of advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah. Israel must remain vigilant in the face of the challenges coming from the North. Monday night’s air attack, if indeed the IAF carried it out, was a necessary part of that vigilance.
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