The New York Times reports: Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory on Wednesday, American officials reported, 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.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Israelis had notified the Americans about the attack, which the Syrian government called an act of “Israeli arrogance and aggression” that raised the risks that the two-year-old civil conflict in Syria could spread beyond the country’s borders.
In a statement, the Syrian military said a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs had been hit and denied that a convoy had been the target.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the airstrike. But they have been warning that they are monitoring the possible movement of weapons in the Syrian conflict, including chemical weapons, and would take action to thwart any possible transfers into Hezbollah’s possession.
It was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria, which has remained in a technical state of war with Israel although both sides have maintained an uneasy peace along their decades-old armistice line.
Hezbollah, which plays a decisive role in Lebanese politics, has long relied on Syria as both a source of weapons and a conduit for weapons flowing from Iran. Hezbollah has supported the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the uprising against him in part because it does not want to lose that weapons corridor, and some analysts say that Hezbollah may be trying to stock up on weapons now in case Mr. Assad falls. Other analysts say that Hezbollah would be cautious now about receiving arms from Syria because it does not want to risk drawing an Israeli attack or destabilizing its political position in Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, recently urged Lebanese citizens to welcome Syrian refugees regardless of their political affiliation, a move widely interpreted as aimed in part at preserving its relationship with Syria in the event of a rebel takeover, in addition to maintaining political calm in Lebanon. [Continue reading…]