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.
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.