Israeli strike on Syria followed violations of Lebanon’s airspace and movement of missile defense system to north

Israel/PalestineMiddle East
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IDF soldiers at the border with Lebanon in November 2005. (Photo: Efi Sharir/AFP/Le Monde)

Late Tuesday evening Israeli planes bombed a weapons convoy in Syria destined for Lebanon, marking Israel’s military entry into the now two-year crisis in Syria. Earlier Israeli officials announced they would strike Syria if the embattled Bashar al-Assad lost control over his chemical weapons, but commentators are questioning if the impetus for the air raid was Lebanon, specifically Hezbollah.

In possible preparation for the air assault, over the weekend Israel relocated two Iron Dome anti-missile systems to the north, notes LebanonNow‘s Tony Badran:

The operation might explain why, earlier on Sunday, Israel reinforced its defenses in the north, deploying two Iron Dome missile defense batteries near Haifa and in the Galilee, perhaps as a precaution against possible retaliation from Hezbollah. However, this targeted hit only highlights the party’s vulnerability, especially in light of the ongoing war in Syria. Therefore, it will be forced to swallow this latest blow and is unlikely to retaliate and risk a larger conflagration with Israel. More troubling, though, is the ominous implication for Lebanon, should Hezbollah continue with such transfers. This time the strike was in Syria. Next time, Israel has signaled, it could well be in Lebanon.

Days before the air raid, Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom alluded to the possibility of a preemptive strike in an interview with Army Radio, reported the Toronto Star. Speaking about the transfer of weapons from Syria to Lebanon, Shalom said, “It would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach, including even action.” When asked specifically about preemption, Shalom said “We will have to make the decisions.”

Until now, there is no confirmation of the exact location of the strike or the target. Although most reports are stating a weapons convoy was hit, some in Syria have alleged a military research center was targeted. Today the Lebanese newspaper L’Orient le Jour reported:

[R]esidents near Damascus told the AFP that the missiles had hit a ‘research center for non-conventional weapons. ‘ According to the residents the center is located in al-Hameh, fifteen kilometers to the northwest of Damascus, and was hit by six missiles, which partially destroyed the center, causing a fire and at least two deaths….

On the other hand, under the condition of anonymity Lebanese security sources affirmed that the strike was about an ‘armed convoy heading in the direction of Lebanon that touched on the Syrian side of the border around 23:30 GMT,’ without specifying the exact location of the attack.

Yesterday Reuters reported a “Western diplomat” also confirmed that weapons being delivered to Lebanon were the target:

‘The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon,’ said one Western diplomat, echoing others who said the convoy’s load may have included anti-aircraft missiles or long-range rockets. Several sources ruled out the presence in the convoy of chemical weapons, about which Israel has also raised concerns.

Diplomatic sources from three countries told Reuters that chemical weapons were believed to be stored at Jamraya, and that it was possible that the convoy was near the large site when it came under attack early on Wednesday.

However, there was no suggestion that the vehicles themselves had been carrying chemical weapons.

In a build-up to the air raid, Israel increased its monitoring of Hizbollah by repeatedly violating Lebanese airspace on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday–the day of the strike. On Wednesday Le Monde reported:

For its part the Lebanese army reported an intensive flight over its territory by the Israeli Air Force, stating 16 combat planes had entered Lebanese airspace during Tuesday alone. ‘In violation of Lebanese sovereignty and resolution 1701, eight Israeli warplanes flew over several Lebanese regions from 9 h 30 (7: 30 pm GMT) […] and left Lebanese airspace at 16 h 30,’ said a statement from the Lebanese army.

The Daily Star logged the times that the eight aircraft violated Lebanese airspace:

The warplanes flew over various Lebanese areas between 12:20 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.

The military added that a reconnaissance plane also violated Lebanese airspace Sunday, entering from Naqoura village and conducting aerial maneuvers over Riyaq and Baalbek.

The plan entered at 12:10 and left Lebanon at 5 p.m.

But as of now, at least publicly, Israel is keeping quiet on the strike in Syria, violating Lebanon’s airspace, and relocating anti-missile systems to the north of the state. Yet today the New York Times reported (keeping par with the plethora of news agencies that are quoting off the record officials) an, “American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack.”

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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42 Responses

  1. Tzombo
    January 31, 2013, 9:55 am

    Please don’t use the abbreviation IDF. They’re not defence forces. They’re occupation forces. Please use Israeli army instead.

    • Woody Tanaka
      January 31, 2013, 11:30 am

      “Please don’t use the abbreviation IDF. They’re not defence forces. They’re occupation forces. Please use Israeli army instead.”

      They’re no army. “terror squad” “gunmen” or “hitmen” are probably more accurate.

  2. marc b.
    January 31, 2013, 10:35 am

    allison, RT has several reports on the incident/s. syrian sources are reporting 2 dead, several wounded due to an attack on a military research facility outside of damscus, and the connection is made between the strike and months of rebel attacks on SAM sites surrounding the capitol suggesting coordination between israelis and the rebels.

    PS i heard reporting on NPR’s ‘the world’ yesterday about this incident. just ludicrous. the introduction of effective anti-aircraft defenses to lebanon would be a ‘game changer’ for israel. yes, as in it could no longer violate lebanese air space at will.

    • Taxi
      January 31, 2013, 12:11 pm

      Hizbollah already has “game changer” weapons. Israel knows this. These weapons will not be deployed by hizbollah willy nilly. There’s a specific time to use them and hizbollah is keeping this time a secret. These alleged hizbollah-bound “game changer’ weapons are anti-aircraft missiles, capable of taking down israeli F15 and F16’s. Again, israel already knows this.

      That’s what’s laughable about this story. The “game changing” weapons already exist. Clearly, the israelis are very nervous about the Syrian internal crisis and these latest assaults are a (dangerous) test, a tree-shaker: otherwise the israelis woulda hit the convoy on Lebanese soil, just right round the corner from where the weapons convoy was allegedly hit.

      Oh and one last note: why would Syria transport such important weapons by road when it’s easier and SAFER to transport them by air – which is how Syria and Iran transport weapons into Lebanon on a regular basis. Think about it, folks: why would the ‘unstable’ Syrian regime risk transporting such “game changing” weapons by road? Weapons to Hizbollah are NOT ‘smuggled’ to them. They arrive nicely by air-freight through Beirut International Airport, which is under the supervision and control of Hizbollah.

      The israeli ‘war mind-games’ just keep getting sillier and sillier. I reckon pretty soon israelis will realize what a gift they just handed Bashar.

      • marc b.
        January 31, 2013, 4:02 pm

        israel may be testing iran as well, taxi. iran has been vocally supportive of asad, warning off israel from further interference in syria’s affairs. if israel can’t get it’s conflict with iran one way, then it may try to force iran into the role of ‘aggressor’.

  3. Avi_G.
    January 31, 2013, 10:36 am

    Late Tuesday evening Israeli planes bombed a weapons convoy in Syria destined for Lebanon

    How do you know that it was a weapons convoy?

    How do you know where it was destined, if indeed it were a weapons convoy?

    • Annie Robbins
      January 31, 2013, 11:09 am

      this daily star editorial is titled ‘mystery strike’. (not sure if this is the editorial staff)

      • marc b.
        January 31, 2013, 1:04 pm

        annie, the ‘star’ states that it will be difficult to determine what actually happened, but satellite photos should easily be able to show if there is damage the suburban damascus site, and whether the damage is the result of mortar attack, as reported apparently by some rebels, or a missile strike by f16s. it also questions the wisdom of the timing of the ‘convoy’ from hezbollah or syria’s perspective. if the reports of rebel attacks on SAM sites are accurate, that supports the syrian gov reports.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 31, 2013, 8:07 pm

        thanks marc, yes i thought it was a worthwhile editorial. i also think the daily star has a decent track record wrt the truth.

      • Walid
        February 1, 2013, 8:04 am

        “thanks marc, yes i thought it was a worthwhile editorial. i also think the daily star has a decent track record wrt the truth.”

        Annie, you’ll enjoy today’s editorial. It talks about Syria’s and Iran’s habitual empty threats to hit back at Israel, suggests that Lebanon distances itself from these losers and to make sure other countries are made aware of this distancing and to warn its own internal factions (I guess it’s talking about Hizbullah) that it will not tolerate getting dragged into the Syrian conflict. The editorial “A Bounty of Empty Threats” with caption under the photo that stops short of cheering Israel for bombing Syria.

        Makes you wonder where this editorial was drafted.

    • eljay
      January 31, 2013, 1:27 pm

      >> How do you know that it was a weapons convoy?

      According to

      It is not clear at this point … what actually happened last night.

  4. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    January 31, 2013, 11:36 am

    ”Late Tuesday evening Israeli planes bombed a weapons convoy in Syria destined for Lebanon, marking Israel’s military entry into the now two-year crisis in Syria. ”

    The Syrians have confirmed that Israel hit a ‘research centre’ near Damascus, but is there any independent verification of the claim by ‘unnamed Western diplomats’ that a ‘weapons convoy’, or any other sort of convoy, was also hit? For what it’s worth, The Lebanese have denied it.

    • Walid
      January 31, 2013, 2:05 pm

      Maximus, “unnamed Western diplomats” is another term for the US State Dept.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        January 31, 2013, 2:55 pm

        Exactly. Which makes me even more skeptical about these ‘reports’.

        Also, if Israel really were going to attack a weapons convoy, would they go to the trouble of hinting at just that on the radio only days previously? I’m sure there are people in Syrian intelligence who monitor Israeli broadcasts.

        There’s also the fact that an attack on a ‘chemical weapons convoy’ would surely cause a lot of environmental damage. But none has been reported. So I’m calling BS on this one.

  5. gracie fr
    January 31, 2013, 11:41 am

    According to Al Jazeera’s guest analyst Michael Eisenstadt in Washington, there were two airstrikes; one on a convoy suspeced of transporting weapons and another on the Jamraya scientific research facility outside Damascus ..If true, it would clarify conflicting reports…..

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      January 31, 2013, 2:18 pm

      This ”analyst’s” opinion is an informed guess, nothing more.

      The reality is that nobody, other than those directly involved, know what – if anything – was hit by Israel yesterday. And yet, the line that this was a ”convoy transporting chemical weapons to Hizballah” is already being accepted as gospel truth. Typical Israeli news management: Get their story spread by an always- compliant media, in the knowledge that if and when the truth is revealed, and revealed to be less favourable to the Israeli PR line, it will have long since vanished from the headlines, as instances of Israeli aggression always do.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 31, 2013, 4:52 pm

      According to Al Jazeera’s guest analyst Michael Eisenstadt in Washington, there were two airstrikes

      gracie, first the ‘word’ was it was a convoy loaded w/anti aircraft weaponry and possibly chemical weapons. nothing about scientific research facility outside Damascus. once that news got out the ‘word’ changed, two strikes. this could be seen as simply changing the story to accommodate shifting public perceptions and doubt after all the earlier reports included “cannot be confirmed”.

      Foreign officials and Syrian state TV said Wednesday Israel had conducted a rare airstrike on a military target inside Syria, denying claims that the strike had targeted a convoy heading from Syria to Lebanon.


      Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman also denounced the Israeli attack, saying the Jewish state was exploiting the unrest in Syria for its own interests.

      edit, it’s worth noting rather than question or debate the controversy (or include it has not been confirmed) whether the first allegation was truthful, they simply added the other news and tried to incorporate both stories. little trick of the trade.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 31, 2013, 8:26 pm

      gracie, Michael Eisenstadt is from winep. i wouldn’t touch his analysis with a ten foot pole. please see the edit on my earlier comment to you, re ‘trick of the trade’, the trade of course being propaganda which is the only thing winep’s excels in. you may recall WINEP Director of Research advocating a covert false flag attack to get a war on with Iran back in september.

  6. Citizen
    January 31, 2013, 11:42 am

    US is working very closely with Israel on Syria. Anything Israel does is green-lighted by Obama regime. You can be sure of that.

    • Rusty Pipes
      January 31, 2013, 7:25 pm

      Not necessarily green-lighted by Obama. More likely, Israel is taking advantage of transition at State and Defense, as well as Obama’s unwillingness to do anything that might influence the Senate confirmation process. Even if Hillary would rubber-stamp anything Israel initiated, Kerry might find some things “unhelpful.” As Annie notes, having caught a trend toward more diplomacy from the next team regarding both Iran and Syria, Israel might be trying to force America’s hand in supporting whatever attacks it initiates (so that it can consolidate more EJ landgrabs and ethnic cleansing during the fog of war).

  7. Les
    January 31, 2013, 12:00 pm

    And the official US reaction is SILENCE. No surprises here.

  8. Walid
    January 31, 2013, 1:33 pm

    The Daily Star ( with a regular column by David Ignatius), l’Orient-Le Jour, and Lebanon Now all talking about an arms shipment are all pro-US. The Le Monde article was written by Laurent Zecchini, its Jerusalem reporter, and said its sources were the Israeli and American press. As to Reuters, it’s known where it stands. Surface to air misiles for Hizbullah is news from 3 or 4 years ago. The Hizb is now into drones. Israel is going to need a heck of a lot of anti-missile missiles to protect its northern borders.

  9. Taxi
    January 31, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Haaretz runs down the developments:

    Can’t get a direct flight to Iran, but they can to Syria. Israelis trying to shuffle the cards by tactical use of warfare. Behind closed doors zionist eggheads have all agreed that war today is better than Apartheid tomorrow. They need to consolidate the coveted lands for the greater israel project as soon as possible, before they get forced, through approaching economic sanctions, to give ALL ill-gotten real estate back.

    It’s the usual plan: create upheaval, and under its cover, steal more land and simultaneously ethnically cleansing all non-jewish people from these occupied territories. But the difference here is that the plan this time round, is going to be on full-throttle attack mode. They think they have a better chance of winning today than tomorrow – knowing that their enemies are only getting stronger/enduring despite the multiple malicious conspiracies thrashed upon them.

    Clearly, behaviorally, israel wants war. Like, yesterday. And it will get it. It will mess up the region, mess us up, and most definitely mess up greater israel. So be it. Evil ideologies die first on the battlefield.

    Here we have the zionists versus the regional resistance. Abrahamic faith versus Abrahamic zealotry. America’s attack dog versus Russia’s client(s).

    Just so I make it clear here: Russia and America WILL NOT and DO NOT want a direct military confrontation with each other over the middle east. But the arm-wrestle over control of the middle east between them will continue. The time of two great and giant armies facing each other is over. The hallmark of a 21st century war? The use of proxy wars by superpowers to settle their differences.

    • Antidote
      January 31, 2013, 5:33 pm

      “Evil ideologies die first on the battlefield.”

      do you have any historical evidence for this claim, taxi?

      • Taxi
        February 1, 2013, 1:10 am


        How about nazism? Conventional warefare through the ages was about smashing your enemy physically and without mercy on the battlefield, so that their living followers would either change their ideologies or bury themselves deep underground.

        Clearly, stuff ain’t going according to israeli plans with regards to Syria, Lebanon and Iran – explains the israeli need to use violence to reshuffle the cards.

        Another rumored story that’s going round in the mid east is the capture of a Qatari citizen who was trying to purchase a chemical bomb for $100.000 and got busted. Now if this story is true, why would a Qatari “civilian” be purchasing their own chemical bomb? Privatized black op?

      • Annie Robbins
        February 1, 2013, 1:56 am

        Another rumored story that’s going round in the mid east is the capture of a Qatari citizen who was trying to purchase a chemical bomb for $100.000 and got busted. Now if this story is true, why would a Qatari “civilian” be purchasing their own chemical bomb? Privatized black op?

        taxi, it doesn’t surprise me a rumor like that is floating around. whether it’s true (could be) or not..i think the emails i posted a link to @ 5:35 pm likely have some merit, especially w/ groups like winep are on record promoting false flags. (note gracies link and my response link/date , september 26.) and the emails said ‘washington’, not necessarily the WH. washington could be code for affiliates in washington, like winep . ..hence privatized blk ops. anyway, that’s not a rumor easily kept under wraps. let us know what else you hear.

      • Antidote
        February 3, 2013, 10:54 pm

        “How about nazism?”

        Exactly. Hardly the first to die on the battlefield.

        My impression is that you think of Zionism as an ideology as evil as Nazism.

        Not the first to die on the battlefield either. 1948? 1967?

        US empire is still very much around and kicking. Do you think it is less evil? Well, excuse me, I don’t.

      • Antidote
        February 4, 2013, 7:26 pm

        “How about nazism?”

        How about Stalinism? Is it a “less evil” ideology because it beat Nazism? And was that victory due to a morally superior ideology? More likely it was “about smashing your enemy physically and without mercy on the battlefield”, and having more human and material resources (and more powerful allies). It’s all barbarian warfare as far as I’m concerned

    • Annie Robbins
      January 31, 2013, 5:35 pm

      Israelis trying to shuffle the cards by tactical use of warfare. Behind closed doors zionist eggheads have all agreed that war today is better than Apartheid tomorrow.

      taxi, i haven’t read the whole article yet but here’s my hair brained theory. ptb can see the writing on the wall.

      Syrian Opposition Leader Says He’s Open to Talks (with assad)

      that’s a clear sign regime change will not be forthcoming.
      next, i am sure everyone heard of the fordo flop report.
      then there’s this from the daily mail (, i am taking off the front of the url because it has been scrubbed : uk/news/article-2270219/U-S-planned-launch-chemical-weapon-attack-Syria-blame-Assad.html

      but it was there yesterday and this was what i saved in my notes (it’s also available thru many sites at google)

      “U.S. ‘backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad’s regime’

      • Leaked emails from defense contractor refers to chemical weapons saying ‘the idea is approved by Washington’
      • Obama issued warning to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that use of chemical warfare was ‘totally unacceptable'”

      then january 23

      An important dimension of the Syrian crisis is the electronic war being waged by both sides. One of the groups active in this area calls itself the Syrian Electronic Army and it has recently succeeded in hacking into several official Qatari, Saudi, and Turkish websites and downloading thousands of secret documents from them

      Today, Al-Akhbar begins publishing these documents, starting with three correspondences from the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs..

      …(cut, i rec there’s a lot there)

      then they publish some of the leaks emails.

      so, i think israel is trying to justify entering syria by dragging hezbollah into the frey, under the pretext they are protecting themselves from weaponry that would have (allegedly) been aimed at them. and doing it at a time to cause fitna w/any forward movement in syria wrt the news the opposition was ready to deal w/assad.

      • Walid
        February 1, 2013, 4:22 am

        Annie, you’re right about Israel trying to pull something or other in Syria and the supposedly leaked email could be one such Israeli stunt but the story is doubtful although still possible since false-flags are very common in that area; the legitimity of the email is still unproved. The super short email contains all the elements to pin a proposed plot on the regime’s opponents (US, UK, Qatar). For some reason, there is no leaked record of “David” responding to “Phil’s” request. I doubt such a request would have been made by email as even the Syrians are not making a big issue out of it. Here’s the email:

        We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington.
        We’ll have to deliver a CW to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have. They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.
        Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?

        Kind regards

  10. straightline
    January 31, 2013, 4:45 pm

    One thing is for sure: the rebels in Syria are now seen as supporters of the Zionist enterprise. No doubt Assad will play this card.

    • yonah fredman
      January 31, 2013, 5:05 pm

      Assad is out of cards. He isn’t trying to win minds and hearts. He’s trying to kill enough of the rebels to keep control of 25% of the country. Propaganda will not help him at all.

      • yonah fredman
        January 31, 2013, 5:15 pm

        Israel wants Assad out, because it wishes to weaken Iran. It doesn’t want any weapons falling into anybody’s hands. It’s not very complicated.

      • straightline
        January 31, 2013, 7:50 pm

        Why then does Israel do something to guarantee that the population will back Assad? If it’s a choice between a Zionist backed entity and Assad I’m sure that far more than 25% of the Syrian population will be with Assad.

        Seems too complicated for Netanyahu!

      • Annie Robbins
        January 31, 2013, 8:33 pm

        Israel wants Assad out… It’s not very complicated.

        no it’s not. it’s also not forgotten how much the neocons rely on false allegations of WMD’s to justify pre emptive attacks yonah.

        i think what’s safe to assume is that israel attacked syria.

      • Rusty Pipes
        January 31, 2013, 8:42 pm

        It might cause a dip in the numbers of willing volunteers to the insurgent forces (and an increase in the numbers of parents trying to spirit their boys out of reach of “recruiters”). As long as the Saudis are willing to fund (and send) outside jihadis and mercs this conflict can drag on (even if they aren’t able to find as many Syrian youths to make an offer they can’t refuse).

      • straightline
        January 31, 2013, 7:47 pm

        You’re clearly not reading or at least believing this website which has been consistently the most reliable on Syria.

      • Walid
        February 1, 2013, 5:27 am

        “… has been consistently the most reliable on Syria”

        Yes, for those that persist in believing that the regime people are the good guys and that all those opposing them are the bad guys when in fact, there are mostly bad guys on both sides and very few good guys on either side.

        Assad may or may not go but either way, the regime is not budging. Same thing happened in Egypt when Mubarak was out. Both are/were figureheads for the regime, but not the regime.

      • Shingo
        January 31, 2013, 10:24 pm

        Assad is out of cards. He isn’t trying to win minds and hearts.

        The rebels are foreign jihadists. Assad has already won this war.

      • Walid
        February 1, 2013, 5:48 am

        “The rebels are foreign jihadists.”

        Yes, very many of the fighters are, but there is also a legitimate opposition to the regime and just as the regime cannot be 100% right, those opposing it cannot be 100% wrong. The revolt didn’t just ignite spontaneously when Gulf money was thrown at it. Foreign jihadists being rushed into the conflict with the help of outsiders is another part of the Syria story but we can’t say there weren’t any internal fires smoldering under all that smoke since 40 years.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      January 31, 2013, 5:05 pm

      Good point. I think many of us here have long suspected that at some level at least, the ”rebels” are in cahoots with the Zionist enemy. But these developments will make that all the more obvious, and this could play into Assad’s hands.

      And while I’ve still not quite figured out the rationale for this strike (assuming there is one) if Israel is hoping Syria and/or Hizballah and/or Iran will grant them a nice little casus belli, they are going to be sorely disappointed. Despite the common perception of them being crazy fundos, all of the above are cautious, rational actors. Any strike they make on Israel will be done at a time of their own choosing, not when it suits Israeli designs in the region.

  11. Kathleen
    January 31, 2013, 10:10 pm

    Syria was on the target list for Richard Perle, the Wurmsers and Feith in “Securing the Realm” Tonight NPR did a piece on Syrian refugees which of course they should…but never gave this much coverage to Iraq refugees that the US was directly the cause of. In Syria we are just partially responsible for…by indirectly supplying who ever the Syrian rebels are with arms,strategic information etc.

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