Israel launches airstrike on Syria targeting weapons

airstrikelibyaIsrael launched its second airstrike in three days in the Syrian capital  Sunday targeting a shipment of extremely accurate guided Iranian-made missiles  intended for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, according to an intelligence  official in the Middle East.

The attack, which signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in  Syria’s bloody civil war, was confirmed to The Associated Press hours after  Syria’s state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a research center near  Damascus, setting off explosions and causing casualties.

The confirmation came hours after Syria’s state media reported that Israeli  missiles struck a research center 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.

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 center near Damascus, causing casualties. “Initial  reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles that  targeted the research center in Jamraya,” SANA said.

The news agency said the strikes were a response to military gains Bashar  al-Assad’s forces against rebels, according to a Reuters report.

“The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist  groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army,” the state news  agency was quoted as saying.

The U.S. State Department and Pentagon had no immediate comment on the  airstrike and the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined a request for comment  from Reuters.

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 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  center 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 center.

Israeli lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defense 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-Qaida.”

 

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