Israel hits Syria arms convoy to Lebanon: sources

Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:42am EST
 
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By Dominic Evans and Khaled Yacoub Oweis

BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) - Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy near Syria's border with Lebanon, sources told Reuters, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah in what some called a warning to Damascus not to arm Israel's Lebanese enemy.

Syrian state television accused Israel of bombing a military research center at Jamraya, between Damascus and the nearby border, but Syrian rebels disputed that, saying their forces had attacked the site. No source spoke of a second Israeli strike.

"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.

The raid followed warnings from Israel that it was ready to act to prevent the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad leading to Syria's chemical weapons and modern rockets reaching either his Hezbollah allies or his Islamist enemies.

A source among Syrian rebels said an air strike around dawn (0430 GMT) blasted a convoy near the border. "It attacked trucks carrying sophisticated weapons from the regime to Hezbollah," the source said, adding that it took place inside Syria.

Syrian state television said two people were killed in a dawn raid on the military site at Jamraya, which lies in the 25-km (15-mile) strip between Damascus and the Lebanese border. It described it as a scientific research centers "aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense".   Continued...

 
An Israeli air force F15-E fighter jet takes off for a mission over the Gaza Strip, from the Tel Nof air base in central Israel November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Baz Ratner