Israel is justified in protecting itself from advanced weapons shipments to Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah, U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday, after reports the Jewish state had bombed Syria.
Obama joined Israeli officials in declining to comment on the reports, saying he would let the Jewish state “confirm or deny whatever strikes they have taken.”
“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,” the president told Spanish-language Telemundo television during a trip to Mexico and Central America.
“We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognizing that they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon.”
Israel and Hezbollah, a faithful ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fought a devastating war in the summer of 2006.
CNN television said U.S. and Western intelligence agencies were reviewing information suggesting Israel conducted a strike overnight from Thursday to Friday.
A diplomatic source in Lebanon told AFP the operation destroyed surface-to-air missiles recently delivered by Russia that were being stored at Damascus airport.
Lebanon’s army said pairs of Israeli airplanes entered Lebanese airspace three times overnight.
U.S. media reported that Washington does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.
A senior U.S. official told NBC News that the air strikes were probably tied to delivery systems for chemical weapons.
But a senior Israeli defense official flatly rejected the notion that Hezbollah even wanted chemical weapons.