Bashar Assad 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SANA/Handout)
Israel did not expect Syria to respond following reports in the US media of an alleged Israeli strike on a Syrian base near the port of Latakia, an unidentified senior official told Reuters, while declining to confirm any Israeli attack.
"[Syrian President Bashar] Assad is disarming (his chemical weapons) out of his own interests. He knows how to make the necessary distinctions," said the official, who declined to be named.
An anonymous US administration official on Thursday told CNN
that Israel had conducted air raids against a Syrian missile base near Latakia earlier in the day, targeting missiles and related equipment out of concern that they would be transferred to Hezbollah.
Israel has declined to comment on the leaks.
Israel has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons, particularly from Iran, reaching Hezbollah through Syria. According to foreign reports, Israel reportedly carried out several air strikes on Syria
earlier this year.
"We have said many times that we will not allow the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah," said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the inner security cabinet which met hours before the alleged Israeli attack.
"We are sticking to this policy and I say so without denying or confirming this report," he told Israel Radio.
Israel has grown increasingly frustrated by US policy in the Middle East, worried that President Barack Obama had been too soft on Assad and anxious over his rapprochement with Iran.
Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Israel had to make many calculations before approving attacks on Syria.
"Israel is sending a message to Assad, saying 'don't play games with us'. But Israel must also realise that the situation is becoming much more delicate than ever before because this is going against the US diplomatic agenda," he said.
Rabi said the "working assumption" in Israel was that Assad was so focused on battling rebels that he could not afford to retaliate. However, he expected that Syria would seek international support to prevent Israeli air strikes.
Jpost.com Staff and Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.