Israel reportedly strikes multiple targets in Syria in recent days



The Israeli Air Force (IAF) struck at least one target inside Syria between Thursday evening and Friday morning. US officials told NBC News on Friday that the target was likely "related to delivery systems for chemical weapons" that were destined for Hezbollah. On Saturday, The New York Times reported that Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles from Iran were struck at an airport in Damascus.

Press reports had originally suggested that a "building" or "warehouse," and not a chemical weapons facility, was hit. According to the Wall Street Journal, "the US doesn't believe Israel would target one of the Syrian regime's many chemical weapons facilities" as "[t]here could be unintended consequences in hitting such a facility, including unleashing poisonous gas, or by allowing others to raid the damaged facility and steal the weapons."

An attack on delivery systems is not surprising, however. As former Mossad operations officer Michael Ross noted in February, "The chemical weapons issue is important," but "it is tangential to the overall issue of Israel's enemies possessing long range missile capability and other advanced technological weapons systems. Stemming the flow and technological upgrade of these rockets and missiles is a top priority for Israel's military and intelligence community."

While Israeli officials have not taken official responsibility for the alleged strike, prior to the news breaking late on Friday evening, Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, told CNN: "If the Syrian regime tries to transfer chemical weapons, or what we call game changing weaponry, to terrorist organizations, particularly to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel will not remain passive." In addition, anonymous Israeli officials on Saturday said a raid had targeted a shipment of advanced missiles, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.

Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad denied the confirmation, however. "I don't know what or who confirmed what, who are these sources? In my book only the IDF's spokesperson unit is official," Gilad said.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, denied knowledge of the attack, as he told Reuters, "I'm not aware of any attack right now."

On Saturday evening, Damascus was rocked by a series of explosions [see video above]. Sources told Al Jazeera that "an Israeli jet broke the sound barrier and hit several military posts." Reuters reported that Syrian state television claimed the target was the same research facility in Jamraya that Israel struck near to in late January. A senior US official confirmed Israel carried out the strike to NBC News.

The latest reported airstrikes are at least the second and third by the IAF in Syria since the start of the uprising against the regime of Bashar al Assad.

In late January, the IAF reportedly struck targets near the Scientific Studies and Research Center (Centre D'Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques) in Jamraya. According to reports, the IAF targeted a weapons convoy, which included Russian-made SA-17 antiaircraft missiles, near the facility.

Like the strike that occurred between Thursday and Friday, the January attack was reportedly carried out by Israeli aircraft that never actually entered Syrian air space.

While some reports of the January strike suggested that the SSRC facility itself was targeted and "flattened," satellite imagery released on Feb. 6 revealed that the facility was relatively unscathed. The images did show a burnt road near the facility, possibly indicating the location of the Syrian weapons convoy when it was hit, however.

While Israel has not taken official responsibility for the January strike, then Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a conference in Munich on Feb. 3 that "I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago .... But I keep telling frankly that we said, and that is another proof that when we say something we mean it." More recently, current Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon hinted that Israel was behind the January strike. "We have a clear red line with the Syrian regime and that is not to allow advanced weapons to be passed on to Hezbollah and other militant groups .... When they crossed a red line, we have acted," Ya'alon said on April 22.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that they are prepared to act in Syria to prevent Hezbollah and other terror groups from obtaining advanced weaponry. In a recent interview with the BBC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We are prepared to defend ourselves if the need arises and I think people know that what I say is both measured and serious."



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READER COMMENTS: "Israel reportedly strikes multiple targets in Syria in recent days"

Posted by blert at May 5, 2013 12:00 AM ET:

The Internet buzz is that PGM were used, for the IDF was able to hit the bullseye on targets all over a wide area.

In particular, the IDF destroyed at least one Iranian weapons delivery cargo aircraft while it was out on the runway. (Which buzz needs verification.)

PGM can make lobbed bombs astoundingly accurate. The USAF has had glide bomb kits that can convert ordinary iron bombs into momentum-only missiles with surprising range -- on the cheap -- for many, many, years.

If necessary, the launching aircraft can accelerate to supersonic speed to enhance the range of such a device.

If this was done, those on the ground could easily mistake the sonic boom of the descending PGM for that of the launch aircraft.

The combined effect is that of a 20" inch naval gun ammunition -- with nothing for the receiving team to fire back at.

Unlike missiles and aircraft, a descending PGM is as resolute as a tank -- flying straight through all proximity hits by SAMs.

Posted by Neo at May 5, 2013 12:06 PM ET:

Nasralleh did publicly acknowledge Hezbollah’s backing of the Syrian regime. It was pretty obvious that he was indicating greater involvement for Hezbollah in the current war. So he handed Israel a cases beli for open attacks on Syrian weapons transfers.

Posted by Will Fenwick at May 5, 2013 3:45 PM ET:

It looks to me like a long multifront regional war is soon to be. The situation with the Kurds is just as likely to create a large scale conflict as is the events happening with Israel in the south.

Posted by m3fd2002 at May 5, 2013 4:00 PM ET:

The videos indicate very large ordinance was employed. Spectacular secondary explosions, with some of them going of at altitude (probably solid fuel propellants). I'm sure the Syrians ears are still ringing. Not many options for Assad. If he overtly responds, he risks loosing his remaining air assets, which would be fatal. Hezbollah is in a no win situation. They've apparently have employed up to 10,000 cadres in this conflict. It won't impact the facts on the ground in a major way. The Sunni insurgents have plenty of manpower, what they need is weapons/munitions. Hezbollah/Qods units can secure their immediate areas close to Lebanon for some time, But if the Insurgents are smart, they will fight it out in the urban areas and the mountains in the west. These areas favor infantry. They have a pool of 16 million population to draw from. Taking Clausewitz's formulas, that would translate into potentially 1.6 million fighting men. If the Alawites want any chance of avoiding a catastrophe, they need to dispatch Assad and his inner circle, quickly.

Posted by sundoesntrise at May 5, 2013 7:54 PM ET:

When it comes to the Alwaites, that's never going to happen, m3fd2002. They made their bed with the Assad regime and now they must lie in it. It is simply a fact of Syrian society that Alawites have almost wholeheartedly supported the brutal, anti-human, horrific war tactics that Assad's forces have used to stay in power. The way the Alawites see it, they will tolerate *anything* done to the Sunni population so long as Assad remains in power and they can continue to enjoy their comfy and lavish lives.

The Middle East is a region known for it's spiteful, vindictive nature. Do you really believe that once Assad is gone, the Sunni Jihadists, Salafists, and the foreign fighters in Syria will simply forget what happened? That they will forget that the Alawites supported and cheered on their slaughter?

After Assad is gone you will most likely see a huge reversal of the Syrian civil war. During the past 2 years we have seen, basically, a genocide of the Sunni population, and I'm almost willing to bet that the same will happen to the Alawites in due time. It's just the way the region works, and no offense to the Alawites, but that's what they get when they support such barbaric slaughter of the majority sect, all for their own greedy self-serving purposes. Violence begets violence, and brutality begets revenge.

Posted by Witch Doctor at May 5, 2013 10:19 PM ET:

Spiced version's of an Israeli Air to Ground munition? stealthy.........

Posted by Tunde at May 6, 2013 10:36 AM ET:

Here are some added factors I am aware of that may help answer this time sensitive question. First, I understand that there was no real evidence that the missiles were to be imminently shipped to Lebanon. What happened last week is that the Syrian Army retook control over a crucial corridor from Damascus to the Lebanese border, that had been held by rebels for a number of months. Israel has been fully in on the series of consultations by the Obama Administration in the past several weeks, that also involved Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and Jordan (in fact a story in the Sunday Times of London claims that the US is organizing a "MEATO" Middle East Alliance Treaty Organization directed at "containing" Iran. Israeli leaders have been told that the US response to the CW claims is to begin providing lethal aid to the rebels, in spite of the strong JCS concerns about the Salafists growing clout in the opposition, fully backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In anticipation of the lethal aid, Israel decided to launch preventive strikes against known sites where Hezbollah missiles are stored for safe keeping inside Syria, expecting that the "game changing" missiles could be sent to Lebanon at any time given the advances that were made on the strategic corridors. Times of Israel reported last week that Assad could win the war. Obama cannot let that happen, and he has told national security aides that Assad must be brought down before the end of the year. The Iranian presidential elections in June will put the Iran nuclear issue back front burner, regardless of who wins the election and what level of popular protest emerges. After pushback from the JCS against further military involvement in Syria (Dempsey gave a luncheon with defense reporters at the Christian Science Monitor and said bluntly that there were no military options in Syria), Netanyahu got cabinet authorization to launch the preemptive strikes on Syria on Thursday night. The second round of attacks on Sunday, referenced by Col. Lang, truly do up the ante significantly, but I do not believe that this is an Israel-only initiative. If forces the hand of the US potentially, but will be applauded in Riyad, Ankara, London and Paris. The safe bet is that Obama is no Eisenhower, and he will not do a replay of Ike's demand that the British, French and Israelis leave the Sinai in 1956. The Israel play is to force the issue with all the allies and reverse the gains made by Assad's forces in the past few weeks. Israel was late coming into the dump Assad alliance for obvious and sound reasons. But I am told that Bibi is convinced that Assad will be ousted this year, and is accommodating to that reality and positioning Israel to get the most out of a deteriorating situation. He has already declared war on the Al Nusra Front and other Al Qaeda elements of the opposition, and the US is training vetted units of the Free Syrian Army in Jordan, including to capture and control chemical weapons. If the phase of the Syria campaign to oust Assad was a bloody mess, wait for the next phase.

Posted by Tunde at May 6, 2013 10:49 AM ET:

Prior commentary from a knowledgeable source on the Israeli side.
There seems to be a determination that Assad's grip is actually strengthening. Hence, why all the recent international agit-prop he and his admin members have been conducting. Observers of the conflict say the 4th armored brigade was particularly targetted because they have been the lead unit most effective at combatting the rebels.
An Israeli writes :

1. The real achievement here - the suppression of the Syrian SA-10 Grumble anti aircraft system while blinding it's Radar to the point the IAF airplanes attacked 9 different targets around Damascus - sends a loud signal to the Iranians and to the Obama Administration that the red line defined by Israel's PM while standing at the UN podium does exist and Israel has the capability to enforce it.
2. Number of casualties, Latest verifiable reports - 4 dead 70 wounded.
3. Targets : Israel did not publish it's intention and did not disclose the list of targets to prevent an embarrassment to the Assad administration, and to prevent further escalation. So far, it worked.
4. Syria's response - Assad Regime will not escalate the situation, and most likely we will see some terror activity in the Golan or against Israeli targets overseas.

Posted by Tunde at May 6, 2013 11:53 AM ET:

Sundoesntrise,
The focus on the tribal aspects of the conflict may be misleading.

It is based on a view that the Assad government is tribal Alawite and fighting a Sunni majority. That view is false. Major parts of the government as well as the army are Sunni and with Assad. Some 30,000 takfiri insurgents, many of them foreign, do not a majority of the Syrian people make. I personally know Syrian exiles whom are Sunnis but pro-Assad.

Where people focus on Iran and the idea that it needs a land route to Hizbullah, hence their involvement is incorrect. For two decades there was Saddam and later the U.S. army and thereby no viable land route between Iran and Lebanon. Despite that Hizbullah was able to stockpile Iranian deliveries.

In Iran Ahmedinejad is on his way out. There is no problem for Khamenei holding his position even if Syria should fall. The system of the Islamic Republic is not contested within Iran itself.

It is arrogant to think that the U.S. can influence anything that will happen around Syria. How did that work in Iraq? It didn't.

Posted by Mr T at May 6, 2013 2:10 PM ET:

Syria has enough problems on it's hands than to get in a fight with Israel. I suppose they could use it to their advantage given the hatred of jews in the region. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Wonder how those opposition groups feel fighting on the same side as Israel?

Hezbollah must be feelng pretty low. Thay are only strong due to the patronage of the Assad regime and it's ties to Iran. It's where their funding comes from and their weapons and their training. The will lose their benefactor and it may be the beginning of the end for them as well, especially if they overplay their hand and get thumped by Israel again.

Posted by sundoesntrise at May 6, 2013 11:09 PM ET:

Sunnis that are pro-Assad mostly support him for economic reasons. They benefit from his continued existence, and so that's why they support him. Or, they are not religious Sunnis and they buy into the "Pan Arabism" tripe that Assad and his father have propped up for years. Those two reasons are the most common I have seen. As for Sunni soldiers fighting for Assad, either they too are Sunnis that believe in Pan Arabism, or they are elite units paid a wealthy sum to fight, or they are rickety, poorly trained, poorly equipped conscripts.

The Pan Arab ideology of the Syrian state is actually a cover for the Alawite sect gaining and maintaining power and control in Syria. And since both Pan Arabism and Alawite views are secular, the Alawites are the natural fit to be the "face" of the Pan Arab Syrian ideological state.

Now, as for "Some 30,000 takfiri insurgents", well, I've seen numbers showing around 100,000 to 150,000, mixed rebels with mixed ideologies. You are generalizing on a *massive* scale when you claim that not only are there only 30,000 rebels, but they are all takfiris. Are you not even open to the idea that the 100,000 - 150,000 rebels fighting the Assad regime did so because he mowed them down with anti-aircraft machine guns and mortars and attacked their communities when they tried to protest? Not everything is a foreign 'plot' or 'conspiracy' and it's shameful that the conspiratory climate of the Internet makes people support Assad because he "against imperialism", lol.

"It is arrogant to think that the U.S. can influence anything that will happen around Syria. How did that work in Iraq? It didn't."

Actually, the U.S. can do plenty in Syria, it just doesn't because it fears arming extremist elements among the opposition. If the U.S. supplied ammunition, missile launchers, body armor, medical supplies, and other such things then Assad would have a tough time with the rebels, more so than he already is. Syria's air defense system has been decimated by Israel 3 times in 2013, it is not a threat. It is myth.

As for Iraq, do you remember the Awakening? When the U.S. took advantage of Sunnis disgruntled with Al Qaeda, and brought them over to their side by funding them and helping organize them into militias to fight off AQ? Don't you also remember destroying the Saddam regime in 2 weeks?


Posted by Neo at May 7, 2013 5:06 AM ET:

@ Tunde
"It is based on a view that the Assad government is tribal Alawite and fighting a Sunni majority. That view is false. Major parts of the government as well as the army are Sunni and with Assad. Some 30,000 takfiri insurgents, many of them foreign, do not a majority of the Syrian people make. I personally know Syrian exiles whom are Sunnis but pro-Assad."

I had been wondering for some time if much of the Sunni populous would at some point come to see the actions of the rebellion as having been co-opted and no longer in their interest. Many may arrive at the view that the devil they know (Assad) is better than living in an extremist Islamic state dedicated to perpetual jihad.

Posted by Neo at May 7, 2013 5:40 AM ET:


@ Tunde
“Where people focus on Iran and the idea that it needs a land route to Hizbullah, hence their involvement is incorrect. For two decades there was Saddam and later the U.S. army and thereby no viable land route between Iran and Lebanon. Despite that Hizbullah was able to stockpile Iranian deliveries.”

I think your thinking on this point is faulty. Syrian air facilities and military bases just across Lebanon’s border are of immeasurable value in the supply of Hezbollah. Hezbollah has no comparable replacement for those assets. Getting arms shipments through the Beirut airport would be highly problematic to say the least. Getting shipments by land across Iraq and the Syrian desert would be a very long umbilical indeed. Getting low volume shipments from Iraq is one thing, it is another thing altogether to secure effective high volume supply lines across such a large expanse of open desert, much of it with a hostile populous.

Posted by gb at May 7, 2013 9:27 PM ET:

Any chance that Israel is becoming the defacto tactical air strike capability for the rebels, in exchange for a free hand at reeling in the Hamas advance weapons capability? Perhaps some back channel deal with the lesser of two evils. Also, strengthens Israels position in the event that they first strike Iran, as the rebels are actively fighting Iranian Qods forces in Syria and may grant Israel some additiona l lattitude in exchange for decimating Syria's big punch capability.

Posted by Tunde at May 8, 2013 1:07 AM ET:

Sundoesntrise and Neo,
Thanks for the replies. Let's see how things pan out.