JERUSALEM—Israeli warplanes are reported to have attacked an arms convoy traveling from Syria to Lebanon Tuesday night.
Syrian state TV confirmed Wednesday an Israeli airstrike on a military site near Damascus, according to the Associated Press. U.S. officials have reported the strike, but did not disclose the location, according to the AP.
The attacked weapons delivery appears to be an attempt by embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to arm Hezbollah with SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, according to the Israel Project (TIP).
“Israeli officials have been warning for months, and in increasingly explicit language, that Jerusalem will not allow the transfer of Syria’s advanced weapons including and especially chemical and biological weapons, to terrorist groups,” TIP noted in a press release.
Israeli officials told a group of reporters at a TIP briefing that Jerusalem is determined to prevent Assad from arming the violent militant group.
The reported strike came days after Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said in a radio interview that Israel would not tolerate the transfer of chemical or biological weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.
“It would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach, including even action,” he said.
Military officials later said Israel would also block the transfer of advanced weapons systems such as state-of-the-art Soviet anti-aircraft missiles in Syria’s possession or land-to-sea missiles, which would endanger gas-exploration rigs off Israel’s shores and curb Israeli naval patrols off Lebanon.
Reuters quoted a Western diplomat and anonymous security sources as saying planes had attacked a target near Lebanon’s border with Syria. Agence France Presse quoted a security source as saying the target was a weapons convoy.
Lebanese officials, who denied an attack took place, said four Israeli warplanes crossed into Lebanon early Tuesday night and flew low over villages in the southern part of the country, a Hezbollah stronghold. Four other planes later replaced the foursome, and these in turn were replaced by four planes, which finally departed Lebanese air space at 2 a.m.
A senior Iranian official declared on Saturday that any external attack on Syria would be regarded in Tehran as an attack on Iran. The official, Ali Akbar Velayhatai, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is believed to have had Turkey and Western powers in mind but his warning might be regarded as relevant if an Israeli air attack took place on Syrian soil.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week summoned a meeting of all senior security officials the day after the recent national elections to discuss the danger of non-conventional and state-of-the-art weapons being transferred from Syria to Hezbollah.
That meeting was followed by heightened activity by the Israeli air force along the border. Two Iron Dome batteries which had downed hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza two months ago were transferred to the north to deal with a possible outbreak of rocket fire from there.