Israel may feel need to strike Syria again

Syria

An Israeli air attack staged in Syria this week may be a sign of things to come.

Israeli military officials appear to have concluded that the risks of attacking Syria are worth taking when compared to the dangers of allowing sophisticated weapons to reach Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.

With Syrian President Bashar Assad's grip on power weakening, Israeli officials fear he could soon lose control over his substantial arsenal of chemical and advanced weapons, which could slip into the hands of Hezbollah or other hostile groups. These concerns, combined with Hezbollah's own domestic problems, mean further military action could be likely.

Tzachi Hanegbi, an incoming lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and a former chairman of parliament's influential foreign affairs and defense committee, signaled Thursday that Israel could be compelled to act on its own. While Israel's preference is for Western powers to gain control over Syria's arms stockpile, he said there are no signs of that happening.

"Israel finds itself, like it has many times in the past, facing a dilemma that only it knows how to respond to. And it could well be that we will reach a stage where we will have to make decisions,'' Hanegbi told Israel's Army Radio Thursday. Hanegbi, like other Israeli officials, would not confirm Israeli involvement in the airstrike.

In this week's incident, Israeli warplanes conducted a rare airstrike inside Syria, according to US officials who said the target was a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran.

The Syrian military has denied the existence of any weapons shipment and said a military research facility outside Damascus was hit.

On Thursday, Syria threatened to retaliate, while Hezbollah condemned the attack as "barbaric aggression.'' Iran, which supplies arms to Syria, Hezbollah and the Hamas militant group in Gaza, said the airstrike would have significant implications for Israel. Syrian ally Russia said it appeared to be an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.

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