Israel launched a rare airstrike inside Syria, U.S. officials said Wednesday, targeting a convoy believed to contain SA-17 anti-aircraft missile systems bound for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. AP reported from Lebanon.
Israel has constantly monitored the deterriorating situation in Syria, and has openly expressed its determination to attack and destroy military assets seeping from Syrian military to Lebnon or extremist terror groups. Such strategic assets include chemical weapons, coastal defense, air defense and ballistic missiles.
The attack that occurred overnight Tuesday, targeted a Syrian site near the Lebanese border; a Syrian military statement said the Israeli attack destroyed a military research center northwest of Damascus. The Syrians denied a shipment of such weapons taking place. They appeared to be referring to the same incident. The strike destroyed the center and damaged a nearby building, killing two workers and wounding five others, the Syrian statement said.
Sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, if acquired by Hezbollah, would be “game-changing” weapons, enabling the militants to threaten Israeli jets at medium and high altitudes as well as helicopters and surveillance drones flying at medium to low altitudes.
In a statement, the Syrian military denied the existence of any such shipment and said a scientific research facility in the area of Jamraya, outside Damascus was hit by the Israeli warplanes.
The Israeli military declined to comment. However, many in Israel worry that as Syrian President Bashar Assad loses power, he could strike back by transferring chemical or advanced weapons to Hezbollah, which is neighboring Lebanon’s most powerful military force and is committed to Israel’s destruction.