JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel gave Washington advanced notice about its attack Wednesday on a Syrian target, U.S. officials told The New York Times.
The newspaper on Thursday cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying they believed the target of the airstrike was a convoy carrying sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Syria said late Wednesday in a statement carried on the official Sana news agency that the target was a military research center near Damascus. The report said the attack killed two workers.
“The Syrian government points out to the international community that this Israeli arrogance and aggression is dangerous for Syrian sovereignty and stresses that such criminal acts will not weaken Syria’s role nor will discourage Syrians from continuing to support resistance movements and just Arab causes, particularly the Palestinian issue,” the statement said.
A U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that reports of an attack on a convoy and a research facility were not mutually exclusive.
Israel has a policy of neither confirming nor denying such strikes, and it has maintained that silence in the wake of reports about the strike.
Iran has threatened to retaliate against Israel. The Iranian Fars news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on Thursday as saying the raid on Syria will have significant implications for Tel Aviv.
Syria also threatened revenge. "Israel, the Americans and the Arab regimes that have conspired together know that Syria will defend its sovereignty and its land. The Zionist aggression exposes Israel’s part in the war against Syria," said Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali. Syria has "the option and the surprise to retaliate," he said.
News of the attack came days after Israel’s vice prime minister, Silvan Shalom, confirmed that Israel could launch a military strike on Syria if it appeared that Hezbollah fighters or Syrian rebels had taken possession of Syrian chemical weapons. Shalom confirmed to Israeli Army Radio that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last week on Election Day with the country’s security chiefs to discuss the situation in Syria.
Meanwhile, Israelis have flocked to gas-mask distribution centers in recent days following escalations on the Syria-Israel border.
The Lebanese army earlier this week accused Israel’s Air Force of violating Lebanon’s airspace several times on Jan. 26.