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Breaking News:

Syria Says It Was Hit by Strikes From Israeli Planes

Syria Says It Was Hit by Strikes From Israeli Planes

Israel fighter jets enter Lebanese airspace, hit targets on Syria border

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Syria Says It Was Hit by Strikes From Israeli Planes

Posted on 31 January 2013 by "the witness"

By ISABEL KERSHNER and RICK GLADSTONE
Published: January 30, 2013  

http://www.mintpress.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Mideast-Israel-Palest_Webf-53-690x388.jpg

An Israeli F16 fighter jet.(Reuters / Amir Cohen)

JERUSALEM — The Syrian government said that Israeli warplanes had carried out an airstrike inside its territory on Wednesday, raising the risks that the two-year-old civil conflict in Syria could spread beyond the country’s borders.

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SLIDE SHOW: Intense Fighting in Damascus

A statement by the Syrian military said a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs had been hit, but the precise target was unclear. Earlier news reports, confirmed by an American official in Washington, said the Israelis were targeting a truck convoy inside Syria that was bound for Lebanon.

It was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria, which has remained in a technical state of war with Israel although both sides have maintained an uneasy peace along their disputed border.

The Syrian statement, carried by state television, said an unidentified number of Israeli jets flying below radar had hit the research facility, killing two people and causing “huge material damage.”

The Syrian statement denied the reports that Israeli warplanes had struck a truck convoy carrying antiaircraft weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group, which is allied with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and considers Israel its main enemy.

“Israeli warplanes violated our airspace at dawn, bombing directly one of the research scientific centers in the Jimraya district in rural Damascus,” the Syrian statement said, calling it a “breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

Israel officials declined to comment on any military action that Israel might have conducted in Syria.

But the Israelis have warned in recent days about what they called the threat of chemical or advanced conventional weapons leaking from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon or into the hands of extremist Islamic rebel groups as a result of the turmoil in Syria.

The Lebanese Army said in a statement on Wednesday that Israeli warplanes had carried out two sorties, circling over Lebanon for hours on Tuesday and before dawn on Wednesday, but made no mention of any attacks.

Jerusalem has long maintained a policy of silence on pre-emptive military strikes. It would not comment after Sudan accused the Israel military of carrying out an air attack that destroyed a weapons factory in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, in October. Israel also never admitted to the bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, and Syria kept mum about that attack. The ambiguity allowed that event to pass without Syria feeling pressure to retaliate.

The heightened sense of alert in Israel this week had focused on the Syrian government’s precarious hold on its stockpiles of chemical weapons. But Israeli officials and experts have also voiced concern about the fate of what they describe as conventional “strategic weapons” in Syria, including advanced ground-to-air missiles, shore-to-sea missiles and anti-tank missiles. They say such weapons in the hands of Hezbollah, which Israel last fought in a monthlong war in 2006, could upset the current balance of forces in the region.

Amnon Sofrin, a retired brigadier general and former Israeli intelligence officer, told reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday that Hezbollah, which is known to have been storing some of its more advanced weapons in Syria, was now eager to remove everything it could to Lebanon. He said Israel was carefully watching for convoys transferring weapons systems from Syria to Lebanon.

Israel’s air force chief, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, said on Tuesday that Syria was a prime example of “the weakening governance in neighboring countries that heralds greater exposure to hostile activity.”

Speaking at an international space conference in Israel, General Eshel said: “We work every day in order to lessen the immediate threats, to create better conditions so that we will be victorious in future wars. This is a struggle in which the Air Force is a central player, from here to thousands of kilometers away.”

There have been reports in the last week of feverish security consultations between Israel’s political and security chiefs, and at least one Iron Dome anti-rocket missile defense battery was deployed in northern Israel. Israel’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, was in Moscow for talks with Russian officials on Monday.

Israel has made it clear that if the Syrian government loses control over its chemical weapons or transfers them to Hezbollah, Israel will most likely be compelled to act. Avi Dichter, the minister for the home front, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that options to prevent Syria from using or transferring the weapons included deterrence and “attempts to hit the stockpiles.”

Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad in Beirut, Lebanon, and Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt in Washington.

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Israel fighter jets enter Lebanese airspace, hit targets on Syria border

Published: 30 January, 2013, 16:19

Edited: 31 January, 2013, 00:22

An Israeli F16 fighter jet.(Reuters / Amir Cohen)

An Israeli F16 fighter jet.(Reuters / Amir Cohen)

Israeli air force jets reportedly attacked a target on the Syria-Lebanon border after repeatedly violating Lebanese airspace Wednesday night. The Syrian military, however, says the jets targeted a scientific research center near Damascus.

The overnight IAF strike was directed at a weapons convoy traveling from Syria into Lebanon, RT correspondent Paula Slier reported from Israel, citing Lebanese media. The convoy may have been moving anti-aircraft rockets from Syria, Slier added, citing foreign sources who spoke on Israeli TV.

“There was definitely a hit in the border area,” the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity, without elaborating further.

Several squads of Israeli air force jets breached Lebanese airspace overnight, the Lebanese army reported in a statement earlier on Wednesday. The army said that four warplanes flew over the southernmost coastal town of Naqoura and hovered for several hours over villages in southern Lebanon before leaving the country's airspace.

The airstrike came amid Israeli concerns over Syrian chemical arms falling into militants’ hands. The Israel Defense Force refused to confirm or deny the reports. "We do not comment on reports of this kind," an IDF spokesperson said.

Later on Wednesday, the Syrian army’s general command has issued a statement claiming that Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace and launched a direct strike on a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus.

Over the past week, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of IAF planes sighted in the airspace of Lebanon, which borders Syria. At least 12 jet missions were reported by the Lebanese military.

The reports come amid concerns voiced by Israeli officials that Syrian chemical weapons and anti-aircraft missiles could fall into the hands of Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

“It is necessary to look at our surroundings, both at what is happening with Iran and its proxies, and what is happening in other arenas – lethal weaponry in Syria, which is steadily breaking up,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a Sunday cabinet meeting.

Israel recently threatened to launch a preemptive strike on Syria if the Assad regime loses control of its chemical weapons stockpiles. The moment that Israelis “begin to understand” that chemical weapons are about to be seized by Hezbollah or Syrian rebels, the decision to take preventive military intervention could be made, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday.

IAF commander Amir Eshel issued a statement warning that Syria’s huge chemical weapons arsenal faces an uncertain fate in a “country falling apart.”

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