Israeli warplanes carried out a strike on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria American officials told the New York Times, saying that they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite terror militia in Lebanon. The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack beforehand.
On Wednesday Syria confirmed the attack took place but said that the target struck was a scientific research facility. But a Western official told the Wall Street Journal that the two reports might not be mutually exclusive.
Thursday, Israeli daily Maariv reported that officials close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have said the incident “will not go unpunished,” adding that “all the options of response to Israeli aggression are open.”
The Addiyar Daily Newspaper, published in Lebanon and considered to be pro-Syrian, reported Thursday that Syrian army units have deployed in guerrilla-size formations in the Golan Heights, and the militaries of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have gone on heightened alert following the strike.
Israel has remained silent on the incident, keeping with a longstanding policy not to comment on such reports, but several high level officials spoke to Israeli media Wednesday.
“If there indeed was an attack, then it would have been because red lines were crossed and you can’t draw red lines unless you guard them,” former Mossad head Danny Yatom told Army Radio.
Also speaking on Army Radio, Likud MK Tzahi Hanegbi, a former head of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that, “Israel has always said that if sophisticated weapons coming from Iran, North Korea and Russia fell into the hands of Hezbollah, it would cross a red line.”
The Saudi Al-Watan newspaper reported Thursday that such instances have already occurred. The report quoted a rebel spokesperson as saying that transfers took place over a 40 day period in February and March 2012. The shipment included at least two tons of mustard gas, along with long range missiles that could reach within 300 kilometers into Israel that were capable of carrying chemical weapons.
Thursday, Russia, which has tried to shield the Syrian regime from international condemnation and threats during its bloody two-year civil war, released a statement through its Foreign Ministry, saying, “If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it.”
Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which has been aiding the Syrian regime on the ground, also came to their defense, saying, “the attack exposes the background to what has been going on in Syria for years, and the criminal intention to destroy Syria and its army, and undermine its central role on the resistance front.”
It urged a “re-examination” by Syrian rebels of “their stance and to adopt political dialogue as the only basis to a solution meant to end the shedding of Syrian blood, in order to keep Syria and protect its role in the fight against the enemies.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister said Thursday “There is no doubt that this aggression is part of a Western and Zionist,” strategy to “push aside the success of the Syrian people and government to return to stability and security.”
Lebanon’s foreign minister called on Arab states to “confront Israel in every possible legal way.”
Minister Adnan Mansour said the Israeli strike was “blunt aggression which we strongly condemn.”
The Arab League also responded to the report accusing the international community of encouraging Israel’s actions by keeping silent. The league demanded that Syria be compensated for the damage and loss of lives.