Israeli jets reportedly entered Syria this week and bombed targets outside Damascus. Information about the possibility of an attack first emerged from the Lebanese army, which issued a statement noting that 12 Israeli planes flew through Lebanon’s airspace between Tuesday and Wednesday. While the Lebanese mentioned no attack, the Syrian army soon released its own statement detailing how low-flying Israeli planes bombed a military research center in Jamraya. That center is said to be crucial to Syria’s missile program and house a chemical weapons facility.
The Government of Israel has thus far declined to comment on the reports. According to one U.S. official, there was an Israeli airstrike but it targeted a weapons convoy likely headed to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Another official told reporters that the vehicles carried Russian-made SA-17 antiaircraft missiles that could have posed a threat to Israel’s air superiority. It remains unclear if Israel hit multiple targets — the research center and weapons convoy. The Syrian military denied the existence of a convoy.
A missile-defense system is positioned near the northern city of Haifa in Israel on Thursday. (Photo: Getty Images)
For Israel, the long-running war in Syria has increased instability and tensions in the region. In the past week Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom declined to rule out preemptive strikes, specifically to prevent terrorists such as Hezbollah from obtaining Syrian weapons. Additionally, days before the reported strike near Damascus, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) deployed two Iron Dome batteries in northern Israel.
Israel has previously been accused of preemptively attacking weapons convoys and military installations, including the 2007 bombing of a suspected nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. However, it remains unclear whether the recent incident — if true — was a quiet one-off strike or the beginning of a new, larger campaign on Israel’s turbulent northern border.