Sat 8:10pm: Israel enforces ‘red line’ with Syria airstrike
BEIRUT – With a second airstrike against Syria in four months, Israel enforced its own red line of not allowing game-changing weapons to reach Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a heavily armed foe of the Jewish state and an ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime, Israeli officials said Saturday.
But the strike, which one official said targeted a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles, also raised new concerns that the region’s most powerful military could be dragged into Syria’s civil war and spark a wider conflagration.
The missiles were believed to be m600s, a Syrian version of Iran’s Fatah 110 missile, an extremely accurate guided missile capable of traveling roughly 300 kilometers (190 miles) with a half-ton warhead, an Israeli official said.
Fighting has repeatedly spilled across Syria’s borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights during more than two years of conflict, while more than 1 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
The airstrike, which was carried out early Friday and was confirmed by U.S. officials, comes as Washington considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons in its civil war. President Barack Obama has described the use of such weapons as a “red line,” and the administration is weighing its options – including possible military action.
Israel has said it wants to stay out of the brutal Syria war, but could inadvertently be drawn in as it tries to bolster its deterrence and prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hezbollah or other extremist groups.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in mid-2006 that ended in a stalemate.