WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel has the right to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring weapons, President Obama said a day after Israeli jets reportedly destroyed Iranian missiles in Syria bound for the Lebanese terrorist group.
Neither the U.S. nor the Israeli governments confirmed multiple reports quoting anonymous officials in both countries as saying that Israel was responsible for the strike early Friday on the Damascus airport.
Obama, making his first remarks on the attack, in an interview Saturday with Telemundo also would not confirm Israel’s role in the strike. He emphasized, however, Israel’s right to carry out such attacks.
“What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah,” Obama told Telemundo in remarks picked up first by the Reuters news agency. “We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon.”
Iran for years has used Damascus as a conduit for weapons transfers to Hezbollah, and Israel in the past has bombed such convoys, most recently in January.
The fear in Israel is that Iran will accelerate such transfers as the intensifying turmoil in Syria threatens to unseat the Assad government, which is friendly both to Iran and Hezbollah.
There were conflicting reports as to what type of surface-to-surface missiles Israel hit.
The New York Times quoted Israeli officials as saying they were Scuds and U.S. officials as saying they were Fateh 110s, which are more accurate.
Both missiles are long range and have the capacity to strike Tel Aviv from Lebanon.