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.

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Leave.EU is backing a racist President - why aren't more Brexiteers condemning it?

Our own homegrown Trump trumpeters. 

The braver Republican politicians are condemning Donald Trump after he backtracked on his condemnation of far-right protestors in Charlottesville. “You had a group on one side and group on the other,” said the US president of a night in which an anti-fascist protestor was run over. Given the far-right protestors included neo-Nazis, it seems we’re heading for a revisionist history of the Second World War as well. 

John McCain, he of the healthcare bill heroics, was one of the first Republicans to speak out, declaring there was “no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry”. Jeb Bush, another former presidential hopeful, added: “This is a time for moral clarity, not ambivalence.”

In the UK, however, Leave.EU, the campaign funded by Ukip donor Arron Banks, fronted by Nigel Farage, tweeted: “President Trump, an outstanding unifying force for a country divided by a shamefully blinkered liberal elite.” A further insight into why Leave.EU has come over so chirpy may be gleaned by Banks’s own Twitter feed. “It was just a punch up with nutters on all sides,” is his take on Charlottesville. 

Farage’s support for Trump – aka Mr Brexit – is well-known. But Leave.EU is not restricted to the antics of the White House. As Martin Plaut recently documented in The New Statesman, Leave.EU has produced a video lauding the efforts of Defend Europe, a boat organised by the European far-right to disrupt humanitarian rescues of asylum seekers crossing the dangerous Mediterranean Sea. There are also videos devoted to politicians from “patriotic" if authoritarian Hungary – intriguing for a campaign which claims to be concerned with democratic rights.

Mainstream Brexiteers can scoff and say they don’t support Leave.EU, just as mainstream Republicans scoffed at Trump until he won the party’s presidential nomination. But the fact remains that while the official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, has more or less retired, Leave.EU has more than 840,000 Facebook followers and pumps out messages on a daily basis not too out of sync with Trump’s own. There is a feeling among some Brexiteers that the movement has gone too far. "While Leave.EU did great work in mobilising volunteers during their referendum, their unnecessarily robust attacks and campaigning since has bordered on the outright racist and has had damaged the Brexit cause," one key Leave supporter told me. 

When it comes to the cause of Brexit, many politicians chose to share a platform with Leave.EU campaigners, including Labour’s Kate Hoey and Brexit secretary David Davis. Some, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, get cheered on a regular basis by Leave.EU’s Facebook page. Such politicians should choose this moment to definitively reject Leave.EU's advances. If not, then when? 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.