ISRAEL has hit targets on the border between Syria and Lebanon, it was claimed earlier today, amid growing concern that groups such as Hezbollah will get hold of Damascus’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
According to the Israeli media, the strike came soon after a significantly increased number of sorties by the Israeli air force over Lebanon. It is thought that in the last 24 hours, at least 12 Israeli warplanes had crossed into Lebanon’s airspace and flown sorties over a number of villages in the south of the country. It is not uncommon for Israeli jets to fly over southern Lebanon.
“There was definitely a hit in the border area,” one unnamed western diplomatic official told the Haaretz newspaper. The Israeli Defence Force, the country’s army, declined to comments on the reports.
It is unclear what the target was, or which unit of the Israeli military carried out the raid, although one report suggested that the Israeli Air Force hit a convoy on the Syrian side of the border.
Intelligence officials in Israel have grown increasingly nervous in recent weeks about stocks of the nerve agents, Sarin and VX, which are widely believed to be in the position of the Syrian military. Chief among the concerns is that Hezbollah, the group with which Israel went to war in 2006, and which it labels a terrorist organisation, would seek to gain and use the chemical weapons in the event of the Syrian regime’s collapse.
“Hezbollah doesn’t need many chemical warheads [to do a lot of damage to Israel],” said Amnon Sofrin, the former intelligence head of the Mossad. “In the last two years, Syria has transported Scud missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which are capable of carrying chemical warheads and hitting targets all over Israel.”
Stressing that they do not believe that Hezbollah has yet acquired any chemical weapons from Syria, senior Israeli officials have stressed that the IDF would intervene to stop it happening. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was worried about, “deadly weapons in Syria, which are starting to disintegrate”.
Similarly, the vice prime minister, Silvan Shalom, said that Israel may act if there were signs that President Bashar al-Assad’s grip of the stockpile was slipping.
Israel has already taken preliminary measures against a potential attack. At the weekend it moved a battery of its “Iron Dome” missile shield system to the northern city of Haifa, which came under attack during the 2006 war. The battery had previously been stationed in the south of the country during the brief war with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, in November.
- Alistair Dawber, Independent.co.uk