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Syria says Israel hit military research area
January 31, 2013, 8:02 am

An Israeli Air Force fighter jet. [Getty Images]

An Israeli Air Force fighter jet. [Getty Images]

For the second time in five years, Israeli fighter jets have hit targets deep within Syrian territory in a move Damascus condemned as “a flagrant breach of sovereignty and airspace.”

Although the Israeli Defence Ministry issued no statement on the attack, US intelligence experts have told the media that the air raid targeted a convoy carrying weapons to Lebanon.

The Syrian military vehemently denied the target saying instead that the IAF fired on a military research center in Jamraya, rural Damascus, causing material damage to a building, killing two workers and injuring five more.

“Israeli fighter jets violated our air space at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the army statement.

Unnamed US officials told The New York Times that Washington was informed of the raid before the operation was launched.

The US officials say the convoy allegedly carried chemical weapons and anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israeli media has been speculating for weeks whether Tel Aviv would take action should the Syrian civil war spill over into neighbouring states or threaten its borders.

Earlier this week, the Defense Ministry deployed the Iron Dome anti-missile system in the north, near Haifa, and closer to the Syrian and Lebanese borders.

The Israelis say it would be a nightmare scenario if Hezbollah were able to get its hands on Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. From Washington’s perspective, the decade-old specter of al Qaeda gaining access to WMDs is something to avoid at all costs.

Dozens of al Qaeda fighters, formerly wreaking havoc in Iraq, have in the past year been filtering into Syria, according to reports which first appeared in The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year.

If they were to get their hands on these weapons they could possibly use them in Iraq, bringing down the government there and plunging both countries into perpetual civil war.

Several defense officials have for months echoed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concern that they are aware that the Syrian government is currently in control of the WMD stockpile but fear chaos following the regime’s ouster could deliver these weapons to ‘extremists’.

Source: Agencies