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Israeli Warplanes Strike Inside Syria



Israeli warplanes struck inside Syria Wednesday for the first time in five years. Reports about the airstrike have differed in some details, and Israel has been silent about its action.

Syrian authorities say Israeli jets fired on a military research facility near Damascus, killing two people and wounding five others. That account set the location of the airstrike at a point about 15 kilometers northwest of the Syrian capital.

Israeli and Western news media carried reports of an Israeli airstrike at a different location - close to the Syrian-Lebanese border - and said the target was a convoy delivering missile parts to Hezbollah, the strongly anti-Israel Shi'ite militia based in Lebanon.

The conflicting reports could not be resolved or independently confirmed by early Thursday, and it remained unclear whether one or two separate strikes occurred. Israel routinely declines to acknowledge pre-emptive military actions, and refused all comment Wednesday.

However, Israeli officials have warned in recent weeks that they will not tolerate any transfer of Syrian weapons to militants such as Hezbollah, if that should occur in the midst of Syria's raging civil war as the Assad government's control over the country weakens.



The former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Amnon Sofin, says Israel's greatest concern is that Syrian chemical weapons could come under control of Hezbollah militants dug in along the Lebanese border.

Sofin told reporters Wednesday that Hezbollah already has missiles and launchers, and there are fears that such rockets could be fitted to carry chemical warheads.

A statement from Syria's military command described the early-morning Israeli attack as "a direct strike on a scientific research center." It said the strike followed months of "botched attempts" to seize control of the facility by "terrorist groups" - the regime's label for rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad. The Israeli pilots are said to have flown into Syria at low altitude to evade detection.

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