New York Times, By Isabel Kershner & Michael Gordon, January 31
Jerusalem — Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory on Wednesday, American officials reported, saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon.
Highlighting the diplomatic and regional stakes, the attack prompted both Russia and Hezbollah to offer support in varying degrees on Thursday for President Bashar al-Assad.
The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack, which the Syrian government condemned as an act of “arrogance and aggression.” Israel’s move demonstrated its determination to ensure that Hezbollah — its arch foe in the north — is unable to take advantage of the chaos in Syria to bolster its arsenal significantly.
The predawn strike was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria. While there was no expectation that the beleaguered Syrian government had an interest in retaliating, the strike raised concerns that the Syrian civil war had continued to spread beyond its border.
The Guardian’s liveblog: Syria conflict: Israeli air strike condemned by Russia and Hezbollah – live updates
Al Jazeera: Syria confirms Israeli airstrike
It is unclear, however, what the exact nature of the target of Wednesday’s air strikes was. Syrian state media said that the strikes targeted a military research centre near Damascus, while regional security sources told the Reuters and AP news agencies that the target was a convoy of trucks allegedly carrying anti-aircraft missiles for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As of this writing, Israel will neither confirm nor deny….
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