Israel launches airstrike against Lebanon-bound convoy in Syria

No incursion into Syrian airspace, sources indicate.

Israel has entered into the conflict in Syria, launching an airstrike against a convoy of Lebanon-bound weapons, according to officials from the country speaking on condition of anonymity.

Haaretz reports:

The officials said the shipment was not of chemical arms, but of "game changing" weapons bound for the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group. They say the airstrike was early Friday. They did not say where it took place.

CNN adds a crucial piece of context: the attack took place without an incursion into Syrian airspace. Barbara Starr, its Pentagon correspondent, writes:

Based on initial indications, the U.S. does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.

Haaretz confirms that the Israeli air force has what are referred to as "standoff" bombs, designed to coast low along the surface before hitting their targets, which could "in theory" allow Israel to attack Syria from Lebanon. Indeed, CNN reports that the Lebanese army claimed 16 flights by Iraeli warplanes penetrated Lebanon's airspace between Thursday and Friday.

It is the second time that Israel has hit Syria in recent months. The Guardian reports:

Israel bombed a convoy in Syria in January, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah, according to diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources in the region.

While Israel remains technically at war with Syria – having occupied the Golan Heights area of the country in 1967 and never signed a peace treaty since – the two nations have remained peaceful until recently. If, as Israeli officials claim, these are solely to do with the far more recent conflict with Lebanon, then the stakes in the Middle East have not changed substantially.

Update: An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified the source of the arms.

An Israeli fighter takes-off. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

BFM TV
Show Hide image

Emmanuel Macron's "moralisation of politics" comes at a heavy price for his allies

"Fake" jobs in French politics, season 3 episode 1.

Something is rotten in the state of France. No political party – at least none that existed before 2016 – seems immune to the spread of investigations into “fake” or shady parliamentary jobs. The accusations sank centre-right candidate François Fillon’s presidential campaign, and led to Marine Le Pen losing her parliamentary immunity in the European parliament (and proxy wars within her party, the National Front). Both deny the allegations. Now the investigations have made their way to the French government, led by Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister.

On Wednesday morning, justice minister François Bayrou and secretary of state for European affairs Marielle de Sarnez announced their resignation from Philippe’s cabinet. They followed defence minister Sylvie Goulard’s resignation the previous day. The three politicians belonged not to Macron's party, En Marche!, but the centrist MoDem party. Bayrou, the leader, had thrown his weight behind Macron after dropping his own presidential bid in April.

The disappearance of three ministers leaves Emmanuel Macron’s cross-party government, which includes politicians from centre left and centre right parties, without a centrist helm. (Bayrou, who has run several times for the French presidency and lost, is the original “neither left nor right” politician – just with a less disruptive attitude, and a lot less luck). “I have decided not to be part of the next government,” he told the AFP.

Rumours had been spreading for weeks. Bayrou, who was last part of a French government as education minister from 1993 to 1997, had been under pressure since 9 June, when he was included in a preliminary investigation into “embezzlement”. The case revolves around whether the parliamentary assistants of MoDem's MEPs, paid for by the European Parliament, were actually working full or part-time for the party. The other two MoDem ministers who resigned, along with Bayrou, also have assistants under investigation.

Bayrou has denied the allegations. He has declared that there “never was” any case of “fake” jobs within his party and that it would be “easy to prove”. All the same, by the time he resigned, his position as justice minister has become untenable, not least because he was tasked by Macron with developing key legislation on the “moralisation of politics”, one of the new President’s campaign pledges. On 1 June, Bayrou unveiled the new law, which plans a 10-year ban from public life for any politician convicted of a crime or offence regarding honesty and transparency in their work.

Bayrou described his decision to resign as a sacrifice. “My name was never pronounced, but I was the target to hit to attack the government’s credibility,” he said, declaring he would rather “protect this law” by stepping down. The other two ministers also refuted the allegations, and gave similar reasons for resigning. 

Macron’s movement-turned-unstoppable-machine, En Marche!, remains untainted from accusations of the sort. Their 350 new MPs are younger, more diverse than is usual in France – but they are newcomers in politics. Which is exactly why Macron had sought an alliance with experienced Bayrou in the first place.

0800 7318496