'IAF strike in Syria targeted arms from Iran'

'New York Times' reports surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missiles came from Iran; likely meant for Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
May 4, 2013 21:31
2 minute read.
Fateh-110 missiles [file].

Fateh-110 missiles 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Stringer)

 
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Israel has carried out an air strike into Syria, targeting a shipment of missiles bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon, an Israeli official told Reuters on Saturday.

Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, however, denied that any Israeli official confirmed such an attack occurred in a cultural event in Beersheba, Army Radio reported.

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Reports indicate the strike targeted surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missiles that were stored at a warehouse in the Damascus airport. The New York Times quoted American officials as saying the missile shipment came from Iran.

It is unclear whether the Fateh-110 missiles were intended for Hezbollah, who are said to already have a small supply of them, or to Assad forces, who are running low on Fateh-110 missiles that were used on opposition forces, the American official told the Times.

The American official, however, said the warehouse targeted was under the control of Hezbollah and Iran's paramilitary Quds Forces.

The Fateh-110 missiles could extend Hezbollah's ability to hit targets deep inside Israel. American officials told the Times the missiles have the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.

Israel has made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons, including President Bashar Assad's reputed chemical arsenal, reaching his Hezbollah allies or Islamist rebels taking part in a more than two-year-old uprising against his government.

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The attack took place after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's security cabinet approved it in a secret meeting on Thursday night, the security source said.

CNN 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 Israeli Air Force has so-called "standoff" bombs that coast dozens of kilometers (miles) across ground to their targets once fired. That could, in theory, allow Israel to attack Syria from its own turf or from adjacent Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities reported unusual intensive Israeli air force activity over their territory on Thursday and Friday.

A Lebanese security source said his initial impression was that Israeli overflights were monitoring potential arms shipments between Syria and Lebanon, potentially to Hezbollah, a militant Shi'ite Muslim ally of Iran and Assad.

Syrian government sources denied having information of a strike. Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters: "I'm not aware of any attack right now."

But 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."

In January this year, Israel bombed a convoy in Syria, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah, according to diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources in the region. Israel has not formally confirmed carrying out that strike.

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