The Israeli Airforce reportedly struck an arms convoy crossing into Lebanon from Syria overnight, an anonymous Western diplomat and other sources have confirmed.
The airstrike follows a build-up of Israeli concerns that something might happen on its northern border. On Monday, two Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed to the region.
RT reported at the time that the move was being made in anticipation for a possible attack on either Syria or Lebanon.
Israel warned on Sunday that it might launch a pre-emptive strike to stop Syia’s chemical weapons cache from falling to the hands of Hezbollah or al Queda, reports CBS News. The issue began tracking last December, after Defense Secretary William Panetta claimed to have “strong, but circumstantial” evidence that the Assad government was starting to process Sarin gas for use.
Panetta suddenly backed off those claims on Tuesday, after the computer systems of private military firm Britam were hacked on January 24. The hacking revealed e-mail correspondence planning a false flag attack in Syria involving chemical weapons – and extensive plans for an invasion of Iran.
IDF Intelligence Chief Maj-Gen. Aviv Kochavi met with U.S. military officials at the Pentagon on Tuesday, reports Y-Net News. Among those he spoke with were Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Post quoted an anonymous Israeli official as saying, “Some people say (the) IDF wouldn’t object to (the) opportunity to set the record straight vis-à-vis Hezbollah… Also, there’s the idea of putting them out of play, as done with Hamas recently.”
U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly considering military intervention in Syria. “In a situation like Syria, I have to ask: can we make a difference in that situation?,” he asked on Monday.
Before the airstrike on Tuesday night, the Lebanese military reported three separate incursions of Lebanese airspace by the AIF, which started on Tuesday afternoon and did not end until early Wednesday morning.
Israeli officials would not comment on Wednesday morning’s attack.
UPDATE (2013.01.31): Anonymous American officials confirmed to the New York Times that Israel did launch the airstrike, “saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon.”
“One American official said the trucks targeted on Wednesday were believed to have been carrying sophisticated SA-17 antiaircraft weapons,” the paper reported, adding that letting such weaponry fall into the hands of Hezbollah would be a “serious worry” for Israel.
Syria also confirmed the attack, but denied the target was an arms convoy. Instead, they claim the Israelis hit a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs, and condemned the strike as “a flagrant breach of Syrian sovereignty and airspace.” There is no indication that Syria, which is in the throes of a 22-month-long civil war, would retaliate.
Israeli still did not confirm the airstrike. Avi Dichter told Israel Radio that options to prevent Syria from using or transferring the weapons included deterrence and “attempts to hit the stockpiles.”
“Everything will have ramifications,” Mr. Dichter said. “The stockpiles are not always in places where operative thinking is possible. It could be that hitting the stockpiles will also mean hitting people. Israel has no intention of hitting residents of Syria.”