Sources in Israel have confirmed that the country’s air force launched a strike in Syria against what are believed to be stockpiles of weapons headed for the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, the Voice of America reported.
There has been no official statement on the attack from the Israeli government.
It was the second time in four months that Israel had carried out an attack in foreign territory aimed at disrupting the pipeline of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah. According to the NY Times, the missiles, known as Fateh-110s, had been sent to Syria by Iran and were being stored at an airport in Damascus when they were struck in the attack, according to an American official.
Syrians with knowledge of security and military matters confirmed the strike to the NY Times, saying it took place overnight Thursday, and saying that Iran had sent arms and rockets to Damascus International Airport intending to for them to be shipped to Hezbollah.
CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel most likely conducted the strike “in the Thursday-Friday time frame” and its jets did not enter Syrian air space.
The attack took place after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved it in a secret meeting on Thursday night, an Israeli anonymous source said.
The Daily Star of Lebanon noted that the Israeli air force has so-called “standoff” bombs that coast dozens of miles across ground to their targets once fired. That could, in theory, allow Israel to attack Syria from its own turf or from adjacent Lebanon.
Lebanese authorities reported unusually intensive Israeli air force activity over their territory on Thursday and Friday.
A Lebanese security source said his initial impression was that Israeli flights were monitoring potential arms shipments between Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“We believe that it is linked to Israel’s concerns over the transfer of weapons, particularly chemical weapons, from Syria to its allies Lebanon,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
The Fateh-110 is a single-stage solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile which, as of 2012, is reported to have at least a 200-mile range. It is produced by Iran. That’s well beyond the distance from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah’s stronghold, and Tel Aviv. It carries a 1500 lbs. warhead.
Qassim Saadedine, a commander and spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, said: “Our information indicates there was an Israeli strike on a convoy that was transferring missiles to Hezbollah. We have still not confirmed the location.”
According to the Daily Star of Lebanon, Rebel units were in disagreement about what type of weapons were in the convoy. A rebel from an information-gathering unit in Damascus that calls itself “The Syrian Islamic Masts Intelligence” said the convoy carried anti-aircraft missiles.
The rebel, who asked not to be named, said: “There were three strikes by Israeli F-16 jets that damaged a convoy carrying anti-aircraft missiles heading to the Shiite Lebanese party [Hezbollah] along the Damascus-Beirut military road.
“One strike hit a site near the [Syrian] Fourth Armoured Division in al-Saboura but we have been unable to determine what is in that location”.
Saadedine said he did not think the weapons were anti-aircraft. “We have nothing confirmed yet but we are assuming that it is some type of long-range missile that would be capable of carrying chemical materials,” he said.