Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Thursday that Israel will do everything to prevent a Shi’ite corridor from Tehran to Damascus, hours after Syria accused Jerusalem of striking an Assad regime military center believed by analysts to produce and house chemical weapons and advanced precision missiles.
“We are not looking for any military adventure in Syria but we are determined to prevent our enemies from harming, or even creating the opportunity to harm the security of Israeli citizens,” the defense minister said in an interview with Radio FM 100.
“Therefore, everything will be done to prevent the existence of a Shi’ite corridor from Tehran to Damascus.”
Syria accused Israel of striking the al-Tala’i Research Center east of Masyaf in Hama, believed to be linked the Assad regime’s development of chemical weapons, killing two Syrian soldiers and causing damage to the facility.
“Israeli warplanes fired several rockets from the Lebanese airspace at 2:42am on Thursday targeting one of the Syrian military positions near Masyaf in Hama countryside,” Syria’s official news agency quoted the Syrian army general command as saying.
Accusing Israel of directly supporting ISIS and other terror organizations, the statement warned against the “dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region.”
Syrian opposition members reported that four Israeli warplanes were involved in the strike. While the IDF does not comment on foreign reports, it would not be the first time Israeli jets have hit Assad regime and Hezbollah targets in Syria.
Jerusalem has repeatedly said that while there is no interest by Israel to enter into Syria’s seven-year civil war, there are red lines that Jerusalem has set including the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and an Iranian presence on its borders.
In a recent interview with Haaretz, former Israel Air Force Head Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel stated that Israel carried out at least 100 strikes in the past five years against the transfer of advanced weaponry from the Assad regime to Hezbollah, including the transfer of chemical weapons.
Army radio quoted Syrian opposition sources as saying that the airstrike destroyed weapons including chemical-tipped missiles that were to be delivered to Hezbollah.
According to Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence and Executive Director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Thursday’s strike was not routine.
“The factory in the attack also produces chemical weapons and barrels of explosives that killed thousands of Syrian citizens. If the attack was conducted by Israel, it would be a commendable and moral action by Israel against the slaughter in Syria,” he wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday the United Nations released a report affirming that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons at least 33 times since the beginning of the civil war, including the deadly attack on Khan Sheikhoun when regime planes dropped Sarin gas on the city killing 80 civilians.
According to a May report by the BBC, intelligence documents obtained by the news agency said that the regime manufactures chemical weapons at three branches of the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) in the country, including in Masyaf.
The former Air Force general wrote that Thursday’s strike targeted a Syrian military-scientific center that develops and manufactures, among other things, precision missiles and it sent a message to world powers that Israel would enforce its red lines to protect its citizens.
“The attack sent 3 important messages: Israel won’t allow for empowerment and production of strategic arms; Israel intends to enforce its red lines despite the fact that the great powers are ignoring them; and that the presence of Russian air defense does not prevent airstrikes attributed to Israel.
“Now it’s important to keep the escalation in check and to prepare for a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah response and even opposition from Russia,” he added.
In October Russia deployed the advanced mobile S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft batteries to Syria. The batteries, capable of engaging multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 380 kilometers away, cover virtually all of Syria as well as significant parts of Israel and other neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan.