Israel silent over Syria strike claims
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. EPA PhotoIsrael was on Thursday tightlipped over Syrian claims it had bombed a military site near Damascus, while stressing that any transfer of advanced weaponry to Lebanon's Hezbollah would cross a red line.
Israeli officials and the military refused to confirm or deny any involvement in the alleged attack and had no comment on separate reports from security sources that its warplanes had struck a weapons convoy along the Syria-Lebanon border.
The Syrian army said an Israeli strike, which took place early on Wednesday, had targeted a "scientific research centre" near Damascus, with local residents telling AFP it was a non-conventional weapons research centre.
Israel has frequently warned that if Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons fell into the hands of Hezbollah, it would be a casus belli.
But it has also raised the alarm over long-range Scud missiles or other advanced weaponry, such as anti-aircraft systems and surface-to-surface missiles, being transferred to the Lebanese militia.
The strike made headlines across the Israeli press on Thursday, with officials and commentators quick to stress that Israel would never allow the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah, a close ally of both Syria and Iran.
"The best thing that Israel has been hoping for for a long time is that the West will take control of these weapons," said Tzahi HaNegbi, an MP from the ruling Likud party, who is known as a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"But the world is not ready to take such a decision as it did in Libya or Iraq, so Israel finds itself facing a dilemma which we alone can resolve," he told army radio, indicating that Israel was left with no choice but to take preventative action.
"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," he said.
"Israel cannot accept that advanced weapons fall into the hands of terrorist organisations," he stressed.
Dan Harel, a former deputy chief-of-staff in the Israeli military, said that if Hezbollah or other militant groups got their hands on such weaponry, it would change the strategic balance of force in the region.
"We are not ready to accept that Hezbollah changes the balance of force," he told army radio.
"We have said it many times in the past. If Israel did do what is claimed, it was to maintain the military balance with Hezbollah," he said.