May 5, 2013

Israeli warplanes strike Syria in escalation

The airstrikes pose a dilemma for an Assad regime already battling a relentless rebellion at home.

The Associated Press

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The station aired footage of what it said was the Jamraya facility hit in the strike. It showed a heavily damaged building as well as what appeared to be a chicken farm with some chickens pecking around in debris scattered with dead birds.

The raid appeared to have taken place next to a major road that was filled with debris, and shell casings were strewn on the ground. A blue street sign on the side of the road referred to the direction of the Lebanon border and the Syrian town of Zabadani near the frontier.

Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV, which has several reporters around Syria, said one of the strikes targeted a military position in the village of Saboura, west of Damascus and about six miles from the Lebanon border.

An amateur video said to be shot early Sunday in the Damascus area showed fire lighting up the night sky. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting.

Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and former Defense Ministry official, told the AP that if the target were Fateh-110 missiles as reported then it is a game changer as they put almost all Israel in range and can accurately hit targets.

Rubin emphasized that he was speaking as a rocket expert and had no details on reported strikes.

"If fired from southern Lebanon they can reach Tel Aviv and even (the southern city of) Beersheba." He said the rockets are much five times more accurate than the scud missiles that Hezbollah has fired in the past. "It is a game changer because they are a threat to Israel's infrastructure and military installations," he said.

Israel's first airstrike in Syria, in January, also struck Jamraya.

At the time, a U.S. official said Israel targeted trucks next to the research center that carried SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The strikes hit both the trucks and the research facility, the official said. The Syrian military didn't confirm a hit on a weapons shipment at the time, saying only that Israeli warplanes bombed the research center.

Israeli lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and a former chief of staff, declined to confirm the airstrike but said Israel is concerned about weapons falling into the hands of the Islamic militant group amid the chaos of Syria's civil war.

"We must remember that the Syrian system is falling apart and Iran and Hezbollah are involved up to their necks in Syria helping Bashar Assad," he told Israel Radio. "There are dangers of weapons trickling to the Hezbollah and chemical weapons trickling to irresponsible groups like al-Qaida."

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