This story is still developing with contradictory reports in the air, but it would appear that Israeli jets struck targets inside Syria. There are report of a strike on a convoy headed from Syria into Lebanon, possibly carrying long range rockets and chemical weapons to Hezbollah, as well as on a military research center in Jamraya possibly linked to the SSRC, the organization that runs Syria’s WMD and long range strike programs.
These two events may be related, as Israel had warned Assad that transferring WMD’s to Hezbollah would be considered a red line. If Assad tried to covertly cross that red line, hoping that Israel wouldn’t know, he miscalculated badly, and that violation led to a further attack against an SSRC facility, possibly as a warning.
Israeli warplanes attacked a military research center in Damascus province at dawn on Wednesday, Syria’s military command said, denying reports that the planes had struck a convoy carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon.
Two people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the site in Jamraya, which it described as one of a number of “scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense.”
The building was destroyed, the military command said in a statement carried by state media.
It said the planes crossed into Syria below the radar level, just north of Mount Hermon, and returned the same way.
Sources told Reuters earlier that Israeli jets had bombed a convoy on Syria’s border with Lebanon on Wednesday, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah.
“The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon,” said one Western diplomat, adding that the consignment seemed unlikely to have included chemical weapons.
A source among rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad said an air strike around dawn (0430 GMT) blasted a convoy on a mountain track about 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of where the main Damascus-Beirut highway crosses the border. Its load probably included high-tech anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
“It attacked trucks carrying sophisticated weapons from the regime to Hezbollah,” the source said, adding that it took place inside Syria, though the border is poorly defined in the area.
This is the general shape of the story so far. Syria has a reasonable motive for denying the convoy, because transferring WMDs wouldn’t just cross Israel’s red lines, it might even prompt NATO action. And Assad wants to look like the victim of Zionist oppression.
Obama and European leaders have likely told Israel to stay out of Syria because they don’t want Assad to score PR points in the Muslim world by engaging in a conflict with Israel, not that he is currently in any shape to do so. Israel has likely responded that it will do so, unless the red line is crossed.
The Syrian strike can be seen as a precursor to a strike on Iran as Israel demonstrates that it will take action if a WMD red line is crossed.
Two weeks ago a clear warning was given to American and European leaders that Israel would act, if they didn’t.
The international community should warn Damascus that a Syrian “institute” responsible for transferring weapons to Hizbullah and Hamas “will be demolished” if it continues arming terrorist organizations, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel, director of the National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, said on Monday.
Nuriel made the remarks during the Tenth Annual World Summit on Counter-Terrorism held at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), a part of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Nuriel was referring to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC or CERS, in French), the Prime Minister’s Office told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
This was a message all the way from the top. Today it was finally delivered.