An Israeli Airstrike into Syria

3 MINS READMay 4, 2013 | 03:00 GMT
IAF Srike on Syria
Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares near Beersheva on Dec. 27, 2012
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Editor's Note: According to reports, Israel launched a second round of airstrikes May 5 against Damascus. Syrian officials say a military research facility was among the targets hit. Since the strike, Israel has deployed two of its Iron Dome defense systems and closed northern Israel's airspace until May 9, while the Syrian military is rumored to have deployed several missiles aimed at Israel.

A reported Israeli airstrike into Syria on either May 2 or May 3 is another spillover effect of the country's ongoing civil war. Details are still scarce on the alleged strike, with U.S. officials reporting somewhat contradictory information to different news outlets, but the primary target of the strike is believed to have been a weapons shipment to Hezbollah, likely in transit. The Lebanese army had earlier reported increased Israeli air force activity over its airspace — a total of 16 flights by Israeli warplanes between the evening of May 2 and the afternoon of May 3, particularly over Marjayoun, Al Khayyam and Bint Jbeil.

As the Syrian conflict intensifies, it will continue to draw in Syria's neighbors over concerns ranging from rising jihadist threats to weapons proliferation.

The airstrikes are not the first reported Israeli ones on Syria this year. In January 2013, the Israeli air force is believed to have struck a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon consisting of SA-8 Gecko and reportedly SA-17 Grizzly surface-to-air weapons systems. As is the case with this week's strikes, the Israeli aircraft reportedly did not penetrate Syrian airspace, likely attacking their target by using altitude and speed to lob weapons such as U.S.-supplied Joint Direct Attack Munitions across the border into Syria or by using self-powered munitions such as the Delilah cruise missile.

Israeli officials have privately stressed that Israel maintains its own specific redlines in the Syrian conflict and that despite U.S. President Barack Obama's reported stance, the use of chemical weapons against rebels is not one of them. Specifically, Israeli officials have stressed that they will not tolerate transfers of chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, advanced air defense systems or sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Hezbollah — or jihadist seizures of such weapons.

Over the past months, the Syrian regime has also effectively withdrawn its forces from the Golan Heights in order to use them against the rebel threat encroaching on Damascus. This has heightened Israeli concern that jihadists will take advantage of the security vacuum in the Golan Heights to begin staging attacks against Israeli units in the area. Israel has said such action will not be tolerated.

Countries near Syria are already feeling the effects of the war. A massive influx of refugees is adding further stress to the already unstable economies of Lebanon and Jordan, and earlier this week a Turkish guard was killed in a border dispute with armed Syrians. Iraq is seeing increased jihadist activity linked to the Syrian conflict. As the conflict in Syria continues to rage, the spillover effects from the civil war will continue to manifest themselves.

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