Israel’s defense minister strongly signaled Sunday that his country was behind an airstrike in Syria last week, telling a high-profile security conference that Israeli threats to take pre-emptive action against its enemies are not empty. “We mean it,” Ehud Barak declared.
Israel has not officially confirmed its planes attacked a site near Damascus, targeting ground-to-air missiles apparently heading for Lebanon, but its intentions have been beyond dispute. During the 22 months of civil war in Syria, Israeli leaders repeatedly have expressed concern that high-end weapons could fall into the hands of enemy Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militants.
For years, Israel has been charging that Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iran have been arming Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006.
U.S. officials say the target was a convoy of sophisticated Russian SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. Deployed in Lebanon, they could have limited Israel’s ability to gather intelligence on its enemies from the air.
Over the weekend, Syrian TV broadcast video of the Wednesday attack site for the first time, showing destroyed vehicles and a damaged building identified as a scientific research center. The U.S. officials said the airstrike hit both the building and the convoy.
In his comments Sunday in Munich, Barak came close to confirming that his country was behind the airstrike.
“I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago,” Barak told the gathering of top diplomats and defense officials from around the world.
Meanwhile, a former Syrian parliament member and three members of his family were killed Sunday in a rebel-held area near the northern city of Aleppo, the state news agency SANA reported.
It said “terrorists,” the term the Syrian government uses for rebels, fired at Ibrahim Azzouz’s car in Sheik Said neighborhood near the city’s airport, killing him along with his wife and their two daughters.
More than 60,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad rule erupted in March 2011.