The Israel Air Force struck one or more targets in Syria early on Friday,
according to several foreign media reports.
The New York Times said on
Saturday that Iranian surface-to-surface Fateh-10 missiles were struck at a
Damascus airport warehouse that was under the guard of the Iranian Quds Force
and Hezbollah. The projectiles have a range of 300 kilometers.
an air strike. The target was not a chemical weapons facility. It was missiles
intended for Hezbollah,” an Israeli official told Reuters.
A US official
told Reuters the target was apparently a building.
television had reported over the weekend that the blasts at Damascus airport
were the result of a rebel rocket attack.
The Jerusalem Post could not
obtain confirmation or denial of the reports by Israeli officials.
spokeswoman said the military does not respond to “reports of this
US President Barack Obama said on Saturday that Israel has the
right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah Obama, in
an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo as part of a three-day
Latin America tour that ended in Costa Rica, would not comment on whether the
air strikes had in fact taken place.
“I’ll let the Israeli government
confirm or deny whatever strikes that they’ve taken,” he said.
who visited Israel in March, made clear such strikes would be
“What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is
that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced
weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
We coordinate closely
with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close
to Lebanon,” he said.
Friday’s attack was the second reported Israeli air
strike on a target in Syria in four months.
Syrian government sources
denied having information of a strike. Bashar Ja’afari, the Syrian ambassador to
the United Nations, said, “I'm not aware of any attack right
Hezbollah has remained silent over the issue.
conflicting claims about what was hit in the reported strike. Some sources
suggested the target was an arms shipment carrying surface to surface missiles,
such as Scud D missiles, destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
agreed that weapons were struck, but offered varying claims about what
A rebel from an information-gathering unit in Damascus that calls
itself “The Syrian Islamic Masts Intelligence” said the convoy carried
The rebel, who asked not to be named, said: “There
were three strikes by Israeli F-16 jets that damaged a convoy carrying
anti-aircraft missiles heading to the Shi’ite Lebanese party [Hezbollah] along
the Damascus-Beirut military road.
“One strike hit a site near the
[Syrian} Fourth Armored Division in al-Saboura, but we have been unable to
determine what is in that location.”
Qassim Saadedine, a commander and
spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, said: “Our information indicates there
was an Israeli strike on a convoy that was transferring missiles to Hezbollah.
We have still not confirmed the location.”
He added, “We have nothing
confirmed yet but we are assuming that it is some type of long-range missile
that would be capable of carrying chemical materials.”
There were also
unconfirmed claims that Israeli fighter jets fired missiles from Lebanese air
space, without crossing the border into Syria. CNN said Lebanon recorded 16 IAF
aircraft in its skies around the estimated time of the attack.
intensive IAF activities were reported by both Israeli citizens and Lebanese
sources in recent days.
CNN also quoted unnamed US officials as saying
Israel most likely conducted the strike “in the Thursday-Friday time frame” and
its jets did not enter Syrian air space.
The IAF possesses so-called
“standoff” bombs that coast dozens of kilometers to their targets once fired.
That could, in theory, allow Israel to attack Syria from its own airspace or
from adjacent Lebanon.
Speaking in Beersheba on Saturday, Amos Gilad,
head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomaticsecurity bureau, said, “Hezbollah does
not possess chemical weapons.”
He added that the organization was not
seeking such arms. “Hezbollah is enthused by obtaining other systems, but chemical weapons
will be a burden for the organization and it therefore isn’t trying to get
them,” he said.
While refusing to address the reports of a Syria strike,
Gilad urged his listeners “to look at the wider picture” rather than focusing on
“certain reports and not others.: In recent weeks, Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon said that Israel would prevent the proliferation of Syrian weapons to
Hezbollah or radical rebel elements.
Last month, he also warned,
“Lebanese citizens and their leaders must understand that for every Hezbollah
attack on us, the organization and Lebanon itself will be considered responsible
and will pay the price.”
In January, IAF jets bombed a convoy in Syria
carrying anti-aircraft defense missiles, according to foreign reports. Syria
later acknowledged the attack, but did not threaten any response.
officials, in contrast, made bellicose threats to retaliate in the days
following the incident.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman accused Israel
of a “policy of intimidation” on Saturday following the reported air strike, and
the heavy presence of Israeli jets over Lebanon.Jerusalem Post Staff
contributed to this report