Israeli fighter jets have struck a convoy on the Syria-Lebanon border suspected of carrying sophisticated Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, Al Arabiya correspondent Ziad Halabi reported from Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Halabi said “security indications” pointed to a convoy carrying surface-to-air missiles being smuggled into Syria via the Lebanese border.
The Lebanese army had reported a heavy presence of Israeli jets over its territory throughout the night.
“There was definitely a hit in the border area,” one security source said. A Western diplomat in the region who asked about the strike said “something has happened,” without elaborating.
Syrian television confirmed the Israeli the raids but said they targeted a research center in Damascus province at dawn on Wednesday.
The air raids come amid Israeli concerns about the civil war in neighboring Syria and fears that advanced weapons could reach hostile groups in Syria or the militant anti-Israel Hezbollah group in Lebanon.
Among Israeli security officials' chief fears is that Hezbollah could get its hands on Syrian chemical arms and SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. If that were to happen, it would change the balance of power in the region and greatly hinder Israel's ability to conduct air sorties in Lebanon.
Israel believes that Damascus obtained a battery of SA-17s from Russia after an alleged Israeli airstrike in 2007 that destroyed an unfinished Syrian nuclear reactor.
Earlier this week, Israel moved a battery of its new “Iron Dome” rocket defense system to the northern city of Haifa, which was battered by Hezbollah rocket fire in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. The Israeli army called that move “routine.”
Israel’s Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said on Sunday that any sign that Syria’s grip on its chemical weapons was slipping, as President Bashar al-Assad fights rebels trying to overthrow him, could trigger Israeli intervention.
Israeli sources said on Tuesday that Syria’s advanced conventional weapons would represent as much of a threat to Israel as its chemical arms should they fall into the hands of Syrian rebel forces or Hezbollah guerrillas based in Lebanon.
Israel has sent its national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, to Russia and its military intelligence chief Major-General Aviv Kochavi to the United States for consultations, Israeli media said.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli military declined any comment.
“We do not comment on reports of this kind,” an Israeli Defense Force spokeswoman said.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, on Israel Radio, was asked if there was unusual activity on the northern front.
“The entire world has said more than once that it takes developments in Syria very seriously, developments which can be in negative directions. And therefore the world, led by President Obama who has said this more than once, is taking all possibilities into account and of course any development which is a development in a negative direction would be something that needs stopping and prevention.”
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