JERUSALEM—Israeli jets reportedly attacked two locations in Syria over the weekend in Jerusalem's ongoing effort to prevent advanced weapons systems from reaching Hezbollah’s arsenals in Lebanon.
According to the Palestinian news site, Zampress, the targets included warehouses containing Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, which could constitute a serious threat to Israeli warplanes. In one of the attacks, in the town of Dimas near the Lebanese border, residents reported hearing 10 explosions. The other attack was near Damascus’ international airport. Nearby residents reported loud blasts. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Damascus strike hit a warehouse but it was not yet known what was inside.
The air strikes, confirmed by Syria's official news agency and by Hezbollah media, are the latest in a series of preventative attacks Israel has carried out in Syria in the three years since that country's civil war broke out. Hezbollah is a major ally of the Syrian regime in its fight against insurgents and Syria has been the principal transit point for weapons to Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the shipment of advanced weapon systems to Hezbollah from Syria constituted a red line whose breaching Israel would not tolerate.
Israeli spokesmen declined to comment on Saturday’s attack but Netanyahu may have alluded to it when said at a cabinet meeting Sunday that Israel was closely monitoring potential threats in the area. "We are following the Middle East and what is happening very closely, with wide open eyes and ears—and a lot is happening." Said Netanyahu: "We will stay informed"—an apparent reference to intelligence gathering—"and we will deal with these unremitting threats and challenges with the same responsibility that we have until now."
Syrian state television said, "The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus Province—in Dimas and near the airport." The report said that there was damage but no casualties. Israeli television said that the attacks were based on fresh intelligence and that at least two ground-to-air missiles were reportedly fired at the attacking aircraft without effect. Syrian government spokesmen said that attacks were "an attempt to assist the terrorists" who are waging war against the regime. The last Israeli attack in Syria was a limited retaliatory strike in June after Syrian shells killed an Israeli Arab boy who was visiting the Golan border area.
The alleged incursion by Israeli warplanes into Syrian airspace adds to the free-for-all atmosphere in the skies of the region.
While the United States and its coalition partners are attacking Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria and Iraq, the Syrian air force is attacking rebel strongholds in Syria, while Iranian planes, according to American officials, have entered Iraqi air space to attack IS forces near the Iranian border.