13:45 Nov. 30, 2016
Israel fear that if Hezbollah were to get anti-aircraft missiles
The Syrian army said Israeli jets fired two missiles on an area west of the capital of Damascus on Wednesday morning, causing no casualties in an attack mounted from Lebanese air space, Reuters reports.
A Syrian military source said Israeli planes launched the air strike at dawn, and the missiles fell on the Saboura area. The attack was an attempt to "divert attention away from the successes of the Syrian Arab Army", Assad's media outlet SANA said, quoting a military source.
Reports in Arab media saying an arms convoy intended for Hezbollah was the target, Haaretz specifies. The news came amid tensions along Israel's northern border after clashes between the Israeli army and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group in recent days.
Earlier reports said the attack targeted a convoy of vehicles belonging to the Syrian Army and aimed for Hezbollah early. The Hezbollah-affiliated Al Maydeen channel said the attack was an attempt to lift the spirits of "terrorist organizations" in wake of the Syrian regime's recent battlefield successes.
The London-based Rai al-Youm newspaper reported that Israel hit an arsenal belonging to the Syrian Army's Fourth Battalion, as well as a convoy near the Damascus-Beirut Highway. Both the arsenal and the convoy supplied weapons to Hezbollah, it added, and were attacked in two sorties.
The Lebanese Elnashra newspaper, meanwhile, reported that four large explosions occurred near Damascus at 1:20 A.M. It said that Israel attacked a Syrian Army weapons cache near the Damascus-Beirut Highway, causing great damage to the site.
An airstrike reportedly carried out by Israeli warplanes near the Lebanese-Syrian border overnight Tuesday targeted a shipment of sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles bound for the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah, officials implied to AP on Wednesday.
Map of Israeli airstrike allegedly hitting Assad' army convoy with Russian 'Buk' missiles for Hezbollah (Haaretz)
In turn, a US regional security official on condition of anonymity said the strike hit a convoy of trucks, The Times of Israel adds. The Israeli military and Prime Minister's Office had no comment.
According to the newspaper, Israel had been making plans in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, a strategic game-changer were Hezbollah to possess them, the officials said.
Lebanese officials said a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace on Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, flying close to the ground in several sorties over southern Lebanon. A Lebanese army statement said the last of the sorties was at 2 a.m. Wednesday. It said four warplanes, which flew in over the southernmost coastal town of Naqoura, flew for several hours over villages in south Lebanon before leaving Lebanese airspace.
The Lebanese army said similar flights by eight other warplanes were conducted Tuesday, but added that it had no knowledge of an airstrike.
Israeli security officials fear that if Hezbollah were to get its hands on Syrian SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, it would change the balance of power in the region and greatly hinder Israel's ability to conduct air sorties in Lebanon. According to Israeli assessments, Damascus obtained a battery of SA-17s from Russia after an alleged IAF airstrike in 2007 that reportedly destroyed an unfinished Syrian nuclear reactor.
Israel has also been deeply concerned that chemical weapons from Syria could make its way into the hands of the south-Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group due to the chaos of the Syrian civil war, and has said on several occasions that the transfer of chemical weapons to non-state actors, especially Hezbollah, would be a casus belli. Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday that such transfer of arms to Hezbollah "would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach."
Israel Military Intelligence Chief Aviv Kochavi is in Washington for consultations at the Pentagon, including with Joint Chiefs of Staff head Martin Dempsey.