Israel carried out its second air strike on Syria in three days, hitting a military research centre near Damascus in the early hours of Sunday, the Syrian state news agency said. An intelligence source said the raid targeted Iranian-made missiles.
The attack, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war.
The confirmation came hours after Syria’s state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a research centre near the Syrian capital, setting off explosions and causing casualties.
The official told The Associated Press that, as with Friday’s strike, the target was Fatah 110 missiles, which have very precise guidance systems with better aim than anything Hezbollah has in its arsenal.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media.
Israel has said it will not allow sophisticated weapons to flow from Syria to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and a heavily armed foe of the Jewish state.
Irris Makler, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said that Israel was exploiting the instability in Syria to prevent arms shipments from reaching Hezbollah.
“Pundits here say that it’s a game between Israel and Iran, fought on many fronts,” Makler said. “Iran is sending arms into Syria and Israel is taking advantage of the weakness of the Syrian government to bomb these weapon shipments in Syria; I don’t think they could do it in Lebanon at the moment.”
An airstrike in January also targeted weapons apparently bound for Hezbollah, Israeli and U.S. officials have said.
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported early Sunday that explosions went off at the Jamraya research centre near Damascus, causing casualties. “Initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles that targeted the research centre in Jamraya,” SANA said.
A Syrian activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported large explosions in the area of Jamraya, a military and scientific research facility northwest of Damascus, about 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.
An amateur video said to be shot early Sunday in the Damascus area showed a huge ball of fire lighting up the night sky. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting.
Israel’s first airstrike in Syria, in January, also struck Jamraya.
At the time, a U.S. official said Israel targeted trucks next to the research centre that carried SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The strikes hit both the trucks and the research facility, the official said. The Syrian military didn’t confirm a hit on a weapons shipment at the time, saying only that Israeli warplanes bombed the research centre.
Israeli lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defence minister and a former chief of staff, declined to confirm the airstrike but said Israel is concerned about weapons falling into the hands of the Islamic militant group amid the chaos of Syria’s civil war.
“We must remember that the Syrian system is falling apart and Iran and Hezbollah are involved up to their necks in Syria helping Bashar Assad,” he told Israel Radio. “There are dangers of weapons trickling to the Hezbollah and chemical weapons trickling to irresponsible groups like al-Qaeda.”
(Source / 05.05.2013)