Jonathan Marcus writes: Back in January of this year, Israel struck a weapons convoy that intelligence sources suggest was carrying SA-17 advanced surface-to-air missiles that were to be transferred from Syria to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
That strike was a warning, an effort to dissuade the regime of President Bashar al-Assad from contemplating any similar transfers to his allies in Lebanon.
These latest strikes suggest that this hoped-for deterrent effect has not been achieved. They demonstrate the Israeli Air Force’s ability to hit targets well inside Syria, but they could be the first of many – a regular pattern of attacks that at any moment could risk provoking Syria, along with Hezbollah, into a regional war. The nightmare of a major spill-over of the Syria crisis would have become a reality.
So what is Israel’s concern? While a good share of Israel’s and indeed Washington’s attention is taken up by fears about Syria’s chemical arsenal falling into the wrong hands, these latest air strikes underscore Israel’s equal worry about sophisticated conventional weapons being passed to Hezbollah. This includes sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, anti-shipping missiles, or accurate long-range ground-to-ground missiles. Such concerns are longstanding. [Continue reading…]