Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has given the strongest hint yet that his country was behind an attack on Syria last week.
Israel has refused to comment on reports that its air force bombed at least one target across its northern border last Tuesday morning. However, speaking at a conference of defence and diplomatic officials in Munich today, Mr Barak said: “I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago. I keep telling frankly that we said – and that’s proof when we said something we mean it – we say that we don’t think it [Hezbollah] should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”
The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, today accused Israel of trying to destabilise Syria by attacking the Jamraya base, according to state media. He was reported to have said Syria was able to confront “current threats... and aggression”.
Israeli politicians have long voiced their fears that Syria’s stockpile of chemical and biological weapons could end up in the hands of groups such as Hezbollah, in Lebanon, or other Jihadist factions fighting the Assad government.
Officials, including the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have warned they would not allow Hezbollah, with which the Jewish state fought a month-long war in 2006, to cross the “red line” of acquiring Syria’s weapons, such as its Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles.
It is still unclear what was targeted on Tuesday. American officials have said that Israel hit a convoy of vehicles, which it presumed was carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, near the Syrian border with Lebanon. Syria has insisted that its Jamraya military research facility, just north of Damascus, was the target and that the attack left two people dead.
For the first time, on Saturday night Syrian state television showed footage of what it said were the remains of the site at Jamraya. Al-Ikhbariya TV showed the wreckage of a number of vehicles. The Syrian government, along with that of Iran, and Hezbollah, has vowed to avenge the strike, without giving details.