Israel confirmed on Saturday that it had recently launched an airstrike on Syria, confirming earlier U.S. media reports.
The air raid on Syria targeted a shipment of advanced missiles bound for Hezbollah fighters in neighboring Lebanon, Israeli officials said in a statement reported by Al Arabiya TV.
Lebanese authorities reported unusual intensive Israeli air force activity over their territory on Thursday and Friday.
A Lebanese security source told Reuters his initial impression was that Israeli over flights were monitoring potential arms shipments between Syria and Lebanon, potentially to Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Assad.
“We believe that it is linked to Israel’s concerns over the transfer of weapons, particularly chemical weapons, from Syria to its allies Lebanon,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebel commander Qassim Saadedine said on Saturday an Israeli strike targeted a convoy of missiles being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Our information indicates there was an Israeli strike on a convoy that was transferring missiles to Hezbollah. We have still not confirmed the location,” said Saadedine, a defected colonel, speaking to Reuters by telephone from his base on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Earlier on Friday, U.S. officials told CNN that the strike was conducted “in the Thursday-Friday time frame” and targeted a shipment of weapons believed to be sent to Lebanon-based Shiite group Hezbollah.
Sources also told CNN that they did not believe Israel had targeted a chemical weapons facility.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was quoted on Friday as telling an audience that Israel had indeed bombed Syria.
“Israel bombed Syria tonight,” Graham was cited by the Politico news website as saying in passing, without offering any further details.
Graham, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was speaking at the South Carolina Republican Party’s annual Silver Elephant fundraising dinner, according to AFP news agency.
If confirmed, this would mark the second time that Israel has conducted airstrikes on Syria this year.
According to Reuters, a White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, saying “We do not comment on reports of this kind.”
In Washington, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy told Reuters, “We cannot comment on these reports, but what we can say is that Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, especially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Hezbollah fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006.
The media report said that during the time frame of the attack, the United States had collected information showing Israeli warplanes overflying Lebanon.
Following the CNN report, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations said on Friday he was not aware of any attack by Israel against his country.
“I’m not aware of any attack right now,” Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, told Reuters.
In January this year, Israel bombed a convoy in Syria, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah, according to diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources in the region.