Israeli conducted an airstrike on a research facility near Damascus. Israel has implicitly admitted it was behind the raid, which allegedly targeted a weapons convoy headed to Lebanon.
The footage broadcast on Saturday by Al-Ikhbariya TV and Syrian state TV showed destroyed cars, trucks and military vehicles, and a damaged building with its windows broken and interior damaged. The video was allegedly shot at Jamraya, northwest of Damascus. The Syrian military earlier said that Israeli jets bombed the area.
Israel has not officially confirmed the allegations. But on Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “What happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we said something we mean it. We say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”
“Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has left,” Barak told reporters at a security conference in Munich, adding that the “imminent” fall of the Assad government “will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah.”
Earlier, it was reported that the Wednesday airstrike targeted a convoy carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. The advanced Russian-made missiles would have enabled troops in Lebanon target Israeli warplanes, which can currently intrude into Lebanese airspace unopposed.
The reports were denied by the Syrian military, which said that no such weapons transfer had been planned.
Damascus vowed to retaliate against the Israeli airstrike, while Syrian rebel forces battling the government criticized President Bashar Assad for not responding to the bombing.
On Sunday, President Assad accused Israel of trying to destabilize Syria through the attack. He warned that Syria will confront “current threats… and aggression” against it during a meeting in Damascus with Iranian national security council secretary Saeed Jalili. The remarks were the Syrian leader’s first public comment on the airstrike since it happened on Wednesday.
Israel maintains the most advanced military of any nation in the region, and has carried out a number of airstrikes against foreign targets over the past few decades. The latest high-profile incident attributed to Israel was the bombing of an arms factory in Khartoum, Sudan, last October.
Israeli jets also reportedly bombed Syria in 2007, destroying what was alleged to be a nuclear reactor being constructed with the help of North Korea.
Israel and Syria are embroiled in an ongoing land dispute over a portion of the Golan Heights occupied by the Jewish state during the Six-Day War of 1967. The two countries do not maintain formal diplomatic relations, and hostilities between the two have been sparked on several occasions, most recently in the 2006 Lebanon war.
Israel has avoided interfering in Syria’s ongoing 22-month-long armed conflict, but said it would deploy troops if needed to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and prevent them from being captured by Islamist forces.
For months, Israel has been warning that it would act if there was any indication that the besieged Damascus regime of President Bashar Assad attempted to send its stocks of chemical weapons or other sophisticated armaments to Hezbollah.
The message that something serious was imminent was even more evident in recent days as tens of thousands of gas masks were distributed to people in northern Israel bordering Lebanon and a full-scale gas-attack exercise was held.
Israel also deployed its so-called Iron Dome anti-missile system in the north of the country as part of the exercise.