5 May 2013

Israel ‘hits Syria again’

Explosions shake Damascus as Israel reportedly carries out its second air strike on Syria in three days.

Columns of fire were seen lighting up the sky after a series of blasts over several hours in locations around the Syrian capital. One eyewitness said: “Night turned into day”.

Israel made no official comment but Syria accused the Jewish state of striking the Jamrya military facility north of Damascus, which was hit by Israeli jets three months ago.

If confirmed, the attack would be the second major operation in Syria within three days.

Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by anti-Assad activists showed a series of explosions. One lit up the skyline of Damascus while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.

A western intelligence source said that, as in two previous strikes attributed to Israel this year, the target was a shipment of Fateh missiles in transit from Iran to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blasts hit Jamraya as well as a nearby ammunition depot.

Other activists said a missile brigade and two Republican Guard battalions may also have been targeted in the heavily militarised area just north of Damascus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not refer directly to the raids at a public appearance on Sunday but said his father “taught me that the greatest responsibility we have is to ensure Israel’s security and guarantee its future”.

The Jewish state has repeatedly made clear it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced missiles and chemical weapons from Syria reaching Hezbollah guerrillas, who fought a 34-day war with Israel seven years ago.

The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organisations like Hezbollah. Barack Obama

Speaking shortly before Sunday’s attack, US President Barack Obama said: “The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organisations like Hezbollah.”

Syria’s state media accused Israel of launching the attacks in response to recent successes claimed by the forces of President Bashar Assad against the trying to topple him.

It said: “The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army.”

After a two-year uprising that has claimed at least 70,000 lives, Assad’s forces have lost control of large areas of north and eastern Syria, and are battling rebels on the fringes of Damascus.

Israel has shown reluctance to become involved in the conflict but is worried about Hezbollah using the chaos to smuggle high-tech weaponry into Lebanon.