Syria strike said to target advanced air-defense missiles

Syria strike said to target advanced air-defense missiles

But Hezbollah-affiliated media denies that the bombed sites housed surface-to-air system, claims targets were not destroyed

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A picture said to show a fireball after an alleged Israeli strike on sites inside Syria on December 7, 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 2)
A picture said to show a fireball after an alleged Israeli strike on sites inside Syria on December 7, 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Arabic media reported Monday that two alleged Israeli airstrikes the day before had targeted advanced Russian-made air-defense missiles bound for Hezbollah.

The reports said that eight Israeli fighter jets were involved in the attacks, one of which took place near Damascus international airport and the other at an airfield in the Dimas area, northwest of the Syrian capital and near the Lebanese border.

Israel has made no official comment on the airstrikes.

Syrian security sources told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that it was likely that Sunday’s attack had targeted air-defense missiles that were about to be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The sources said that the Dimas airfield was apparently the storage site for the missiles, which had recently been delivered by Russia.

The Lebanese daily As-Safir, which is identified with Hezbollah, however, quoted Syrian officials as confirming that the attacks were aimed at weapons shipments that recently reached Syria, but denying that those weapons were advanced missiles.

The paper also claimed that the relatively small explosions seen during the attacks — there were no reports of injuries — were an indication that the missions failed to destroy their targets.

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is also identified with Hezbollah quoted security officials as saying that the site near Damascus airport was hit first and that the target was a cargo hangar. The second target, in the Dimas area, was a row of hangars at a military site, they said.

Israel has reportedly carried out several airstrikes in Syria since the revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Most of the strikes were said to have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian- and Iranian-made anti-aircraft batteries, believed to have been slated for delivery to Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group, a staunch ally of Assad and Iran.

S-300 batteries in a Moscow parade. (CC BY
S-300 batteries in a Moscow parade. (CC BY

One of those strikes, in January, reportedly targeted advanced, Russian-made S-300 missiles.

Other strikes have been attributed to the Israeli Air Force, though officials in Jerusalem have not confirmed them.

Israeli officials are loath to publicly claim such operations, instead maintaining a policy of ambiguity, although senior officials have confirmed several of the alleged airstrikes on the condition of anonymity. Ministers in Jerusalem have repeatedly affirmed that the country will not abide the delivery of advanced weapons systems to terror group, and in particular Hezbollah.

In keeping with that policy, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz refused to comment directly on the attack, only saying, in an Israel Radio interview Monday, that the government had a “firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organizations.”

News agencies contributed to this report.

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