Israeli air strikes reportedly hit targets on Syria-Lebanon border amid Hezbollah chemical weapons concerns

There is growing concern that groups such as Hezbollah will get hold of Damascus’s stockpile of chemical weapons

Jerusalem

Israel has hit targets on the border between Syria and Lebanon, it was claimed yesterday, amid growing concern that groups such as Hezbollah could get hold of Damascus’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

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 36 hours, at least 12 Israeli warplanes have crossed into Lebanon’s airspace and flown sorties over a number of villages in the south of the country.

A security source told the Agence France Presse news agency: "The Israeli air force blew up a convoy which had just crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon."

"There was definitely a hit in the border area," another one unnamed western diplomatic official told the Haaretz newspaper. The Israeli Defence Force, the country’s army, declined to comments on the reports.

The Lebanese army said yesterday that at least 12 Israeli warplanes violated its airspace overnight, but denied any target had been hit inside its territory.  “The jets flew into our airspace but there were no strikes on the Lebanese side of the border,” a Lebanese army source told The Independent. “The Syrian side I don’t know about”. 

Lebanon’s National News Agency described reports of an attack on the Lebanese-Syrian borders as “sheer rumours,” while a spokesman for Hezbollah said he was looking into the reports and declined to comment.   

Four jets crossed at 2am yesterday, engaging in manoeuvres in the area for six hours, while eight Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese territory on two occasions earlier on Tuesday night, the army said.   

Israeli jets regularly encroach on Lebanese airspace, in what can be weekly or even daily flyovers that contravene a UN Security Council resolution enacted after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah: The Lebanese government claims that Israel has violated Security Council resolution 1701 over 7,000 times, with incursions by land, sea and air. 

A staunch ally of Damascus, Hezbollah fought a month-long war with Israel in the summer of 2006. A series of funerals late last year for Hezbollah fighters in the Bekaa valley killed during what officials described as “jihadi duties” pointed to the military wing’s increasing involvement in the Syrian civil war. Recent reports in the Israeli press have claimed that its fighters have set up bases near Syria’s chemical weapons storage facilities, a point supported by Israeli officials.

Hezbollah denied possessing chemical weapons last September, with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah saying that religious and humanitarian reasons would stop them from using them. 

It is understood that the target yesterday was Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which typically target drones or cruise missiles.

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 Lebanon-based 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. There was no comment from Hezbollah yesterday.

“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”. Meeting a delegation of US congressmen on Monday, Mr Netanyahu described the various options for dealing with the fallout from the Syrian conflict as being, “between bad, bad and worse.”

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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week