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Israel Confirms September Air Strike on Syria


Israel has confirmed that it carried out an air strike in Syria in early September. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, leaders on both sides have said they do not want a war.

Lifting a blackout on news coverage, Israel in effect acknowledged that its warplanes attacked a target deep inside Syria a month ago. But the army kept further details under military censorship, such as the target of the raid and which forces took part in the mission.

Foreign news reports had quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying that Israel attacked a weapons shipment destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon or a nuclear facility supplied by North Korea. Syria has denied the reports, saying Israel hit a vacant military building.

The attack has raised tensions, a year after the war in Lebanon, where Israel battled Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas for 34 days. Israel's failure to defeat Hezbollah prompted tough rhetoric from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Several times, he publicly warned that he might go to war to retrieve the strategic Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967.

Israeli analyst Eyal Zisser says Israel sent its own warning through the air strike.

"Actually, what happened was that Israel called Bashar's bluff," he said.

Zisser says the fact that Syria did not respond militarily to the Israeli air strike shows that Assad does not want to take on the Jewish State.

"Syria does understand clearly the balance of power between Israel and Syria, and I do believe that from now on Syria will be much more careful, including in what Bashar has to say to its own people," he added.

Five months after an official inquiry in Israel declared the Lebanon war a failure, analysts here say the daring air strike on Syria has helped restore Israeli deterrence.

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