[Updated] World braces as Israel attacks Syria for first time in 5 years
January 31, 2013 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Alarm bells were sounding all over the Middle East Wednesday as Syria confirmed it had been attacked by Israeli military jets for the first time since 2007. It remains unclear at this point whether the Israeli airstrikes were meant to disrupt the flow of weapons to neighboring Lebanon, or whether Israel has officially entered the Syrian Civil War. Unnamed United States officials told The New York Times late on Wednesday that the Israel Air Force had entered Syrian airspace and destroyed a single truck transporting a “game-changing” cache of weapons to Lebanon. The cargo, allegedly consisting of Russian SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, is said to have been destined for Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that controls large parts of southern Lebanon. The alleged attack occurred near Zabadani, a small town on the road that connects Syrian capital Damascus to the Lebanese border. Hours later, however, Syrian state television confirmed the Israeli attack, but said the target was a “military research center aimed at raising the level of resistance and self defense” of the Syrian nation, located near Damascus. Some Israeli media suggest that, if the Syrian government’s claims are accurate, the target of the Israeli attack would seem to have been the so-called Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, also known as CERS. Both The New York Times and Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper report that Israel informed the United States prior to launching the attack, but neither Washington nor Tel Aviv have so far commented on the airstrikes. In the absence of credible corroboration, confusion persists on whether the Israeli action was directed against Hezbollah, or meant to assist the aims of the Syrian opposition –or both. If the latter is true, it would mark the official entry of Israel into the Syrian Civil War. This could have unpredictable diplomatic and military repercussions, as Iran has said that it will consider any attack on Syria by Israel as an attack on itself. Meanwhile, The Times reports that gas masks were being distributed in multiple locations In East Jerusalem on Wednesday, as concerns about security were spreading among Israelis following the airstrikes on Syria. The Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian armies have reportedly raised alert levels across the region, while the Russian government issued a statement saying it is “very concerned” about “unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country”.
Update 23:10 GMT: The anti-aircraft missiles targeted by Israeli airplanes in Syria “were on a military base outside Damascus and had yet to reach the highway that leads to Lebanon” when they were destroyed, according to McClatchy, which cites “two Israeli intelligence officials familiar with the air assault”.
Update 4:25 GMT: Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, has said Damascus “has both the option and the capacity to surprise Israel in retaliation” to the airstrikes on Syrian soil by Israeli airjets. Meanwhile, the Iranian government-linked FARS news agency reports that the airstrikes will have “significant implications for Israel”.