Israel has carried out an air strike targeting a shipment of missiles in Syria bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in neighbouring Lebanon, an Israeli official said on Saturday.
Israel had long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons, including President Bashar al-Assad’s reputed chemical arsenal, reaching his Hezbollah allies or Islamist rebels taking part in a more than two-year-old uprising against his government.
Israelis are worried that if Assad is toppled, Islamist fighters could turn his guns on them next door, after four decades of relative calm along the Golan Heights border zone.
The target of Friday’s raid was not a Syrian chemical weapons facility, a regional security source earlier said.
A U.S. official, who also declined to be identified, had told Reuters on Friday the target was apparently a building.
The Israeli official who acknowledged the raid and described its target spoke on condition of anonymity. Israel’s government has not formally taken responsibility for the action or confirmed it happened.
The attack took place after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved it in a secret meeting on Thursday night, the regional security source said.
CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel most likely conducted the strike “in the Thursday-Friday time frame” and its jets did not enter Syrian air space.
The Israeli air force has so-called “standoff” bombs that coast dozens of kilometres (miles) across ground to their targets once fired. That could, in theory, allow Israel to attack Syria from its own turf or from adjacent Lebanon.
Lebanese authorities reported unusual intensive Israeli air force activity over their territory on Thursday and Friday.