An airstrike on a military research center in Syria, the second attack on Israel’s northern neighbor in three days, is being blamed on Israel.
Syrian state media accused Israel of the early Sunday morning attack on what it identified as the Jamraya military research center, located about ten miles from the border with Lebanon. Israel attacked the center in January, U.S officials said at the time of that strike.
An Israeli official said Israel hit Syrian targets in the first strike Friday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment either attack during a public appearance Sunday. The Associated Press reported that a senior Israeli official, speaking off the record, confirmed that “ Israel launched an airstrike in the Syrian capital early Sunday but did not give more precise details about the location.”
On Saturday, President Obama said Israel has the right to protect itself from terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.
“What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah,” Obama told the Spanish-language network Telemundo during a tour of Latin America. “We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon.”
Reuters cited an unnamed “Western intelligence source” on Sunday who confirmed the Sunday morning attack and said that it targeted stores of long-range Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. The missiles could reach Tel Aviv from Lebanon.
Sunday’s attack comes after an attack on a warehouse near the Damascus airport Friday, also said to be by Israel, that targeted missiles bound for Hezbollah. Reuters reported that an Israeli official confirmed Friday’s attack, though Israel’s military would not comment on the reports.
Syrian media accused Israel of targeting the country’s infrastructure in response to what it called Syrian military successes against the rebels leading the country’s two-year-long civil war.
Though steering clear of direct acknowledgement, Netanyahu, at a public appearance Sunday to dedicate a section of highway near Jerusalem named for his late father, did mention Israel’s security, saying that his father, Benzion Netanyahu, “taught me about the enormous responsibility that we have to ensure the security of the State of Israel and build up its future. This heritage needs to unite us all every day and so it does.”
Netanyahu traveled Sunday to China for a five-day visit. The trip was postponed by two hours so that the prime minister could attend a meeting of his security cabinet, but was not canceled.
Meanwhile, two of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense batteries were moved to northern Israel near Safed and Haifa Sunday morning in the hours following the second strike on Syria.
The attacks on Syria come several days after an Israeli military intelligence official said that Israel confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the Obama administration said in response that it needed more information to determine who used the weapons before taking action.