Syrian state TV: IAF hit military research center

Syrian army command denies earlier reports IAF had struck convoy carrying weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

January 30, 2013 21:39
4 minute read.
IAF plane takes part in maneuvers [file]

IDF jet 311. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson)


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Israel Air Force fighter jets struck a “military research center” in Syria’s Damascus province, near the border with Lebanon, at dawn on Wednesday, according to a report by Syrian state television.

Two people were said to have been killed and five wounded in the attack on the site in Jamraya, which the report described as one of a number of “scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense.”

The building was destroyed, the Syrian military command said in a statement carried by state media. It said the planes flying below radar level crossed into Syria just north of Mount Hermon, and returned the same way.

Earlier, several foreign reports said a weapons convoy carrying “game-changing” arms from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon had been hit overnight. Syria’s military command later denied that a convoy had been attacked.

It remains unclear whether the various reports related to separate air strikes.

The IDF has declined to comment on the reports.

The type of weapons reportedly being transported in the convoy remains unknown, although the Associated Press cited anonymous security sources as saying trucks carrying advanced SA-17 anti-aircraft missile launchers were hit. Should Hezbollah obtain the SA-17 from Syria, it could limit the IAF’s ability to maneuver freely over Lebanon for surveillance or to target Hezbollah targets in a future conflict.

Other reports suggested that the weapons hit were Yakhont anti-ship missiles or powerful Scud D ground-toground missiles. There was no word on whether the convoy carried chemical weapons.

The foreign reports claiming that a convoy had been hit conflicted over the location.

Most said the air strike had taken place near the Syrian town of Zabadani, in the southwest of the country near the Lebanese border, while others said the attack occurred just after the convoy entered Lebanon, near the village of Nabi Sheeth.

Lebanese sources reported the entry of 12 IAF aircraft in two waves on Tuesday afternoon and evening. The fighter planes flew over the southwestern Lebanese town of Nakoura, then headed northeast over Bint Jbail toward the Syrian border, according to the reports.

At 2 a.m. the jets were reportedly heard heading back to Israel.

Hezbollah and Lebanon have denied any knowledge of an attack.

Reuters cited one Western diplomat as saying that the target was “a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon,” adding that the consignment seemed unlikely to have included chemical weapons.

A source among rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad said an air strike at around dawn blasted a convoy on a mountain track about 5 kilometers south of where the main Damascus-Beirut highway crosses the border. Its load probably included hi-tech anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

“It attacked trucks carrying sophisticated weapons from the regime to Hezbollah,” the source said, adding that it took place inside Syria, though the border in the area is poorly defined.

A security official in the region also placed the attack on the Syrian side. A Lebanese security official denied any strike in Lebanon. It was not clear whether special forces took part.

The attack sent jitters throughout the region and came after the IDF stationed two Iron Dome air defense batteries in northern Israel earlier in the week.

Haim Mazaki of the Israel Postal Company, which is helping distribute gas masks at several distribution centers around the country, said on Wednesday that more Israelis have been demanding gas masks in light of the threat of chemical weapons falling into the terrorist hands in Syria.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Mazaki said there had been “increased demand in recent days following reports about the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups in Syria.” The Postal Company said the number had doubled in one week.

Speaking hours before the reported air strikes, IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said that Israel’s need to deal with developing threats before they begin having an impact on the country’s security was growing.

“Today, no one has an idea of what will be in Syria, and how the country will look. This is happening in a place with a vast arsenal of weapons, some of which are modern and advanced, and some of which are unconventional,” he told a space conference in Herzliya.

Israel has been closely monitoring the danger of chemical weapon transfers from Syria to radical groups. With dozens of storage and production sites spread over a large area, attacks against these facilities would require extensive planning, intelligence and resources.

It emerged on Wednesday that OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi was in Washington for consultations with his US counterparts at the Pentagon.

Earlier this week, Israel Radio reported that the prime minister’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, had flown to Moscow for talks with senior Russian officials.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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