The Israeli Air Force was behind an air raid on a Hezbollah convoy carrying ballistic missiles near the Lebanon-Syria border Monday night, a senior Israeli security official confirmed Tuesday.
In an interview with Time Magazine, the unnamed Israeli official said the targeted missiles could be assembled with warheads more powerful than any other in Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal.
Lebanon’s Daily Star reported overnight Monday that the strikes targeted a weapons shipment meant for Hezbollah. Citing unconfirmed reports, Al Arabiya said the strikes hit a moving convoy carrying ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon, to be put to use by Hezbollah.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group claimed Israeli warplanes bombed a rocket launcher for Hezbollah fighters near the villages of Janta and Yahfoufa along the border. It was not known if the strikes hit inside Lebanese or Syrian territory, the Observatory added.
Israel had specified in the past it would immediately seek to destroy several kinds of targets if seen within Lebanese territory, including advanced air defense systems, long-range precision land-to-sea missiles, advanced surface-to-surface missiles and chemical weapons.
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that Israeli fighter jets had been involved in the strike on Hezbollah’s convoy.
Speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Netanyahu said he would not speak to the reports that Israeli planes struck a missile shipment in the Baalbek region on the border between the Syria and Lebanon. However, he added that Israel would defend itself through whatever means necessary.
“Our policy is clear,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about the strike. “I won’t speak about what is being claimed or not being claimed. However, we will do everything we need to in order to defend the security of our citizens.”
Hezbollah seemed eager to downplay the reports that there had been a strike in Lebanon, which would require the group, already stretched thin by fighting in Syria, to respond to Israel
The Hezbollah television station Al-Manar said there had been “no raid on Lebanese territory,” reporting only the “strong presence of enemy planes over the area north of Bekaa” in eastern Lebanon.
Al-Arabiya reported several Hezbollah casualties in the strike.
Janta lies along a known smuggling route for arms between Syria and Lebanon, the Daily Star reported. According to a 2012 report, Hezbollah built a training facility at Janta “which includes a suspected driver training course, a 100-meter firing range and a possible urban terrain assault course.”
There was no independent confirmation of the reports.
An officer in the IDF’s Northern Command told Reuters that “we have known for some time that there are efforts to move serious weaponry from Syria to Lebanon,” but would not comment on Monday night’s reports.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.