Israel may feel need to strike Syria again

By Josef Federman And Zeina Karam

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31 2013 9:33 p.m. MST

FILE - In this May 22, 2010 file photo, a Hezbollah fighter, stands behind an empty rocket launcher while explaining to the group various tactics and weapons used against Israeli soldiers on the battlefield, during a trip to Hezbollah strongholds, in Sojod village, southern Lebanon. U.S. officials said Israel launched a rare airstrike inside Syria on Wednesday. The target was a convoy believed to be carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran. The Israeli airstrike comes at a particularly sensitive and vulnerable time for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Despite its formidable weapons arsenal and political clout in the country, the group's credibility and maneuvering space has been significantly reduced in the past few years, largely because of the war in neighboring Syria but also because of unprecedented challenges at home. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Associated Press

BEIRUT — An Israeli air attack staged in Syria this week may be a sign of things to come.

Israeli military officials appear to have concluded that the risks of attacking Syria are worth taking when compared to the dangers of allowing sophisticated weapons to reach Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.

With Syrian President Bashar Assad's grip on power weakening, Israeli officials fear he could soon lose control over his substantial arsenal of chemical and advanced weapons, which could slip into the hands of Hezbollah or other hostile groups. These concerns, combined with Hezbollah's own domestic problems, mean further military action could be likely.

Tzachi Hanegbi, an incoming lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and a former chairman of parliament's influential foreign affairs and defense committee, signaled Thursday that Israel could be compelled to act on its own. While Israel's preference is for Western powers to gain control over Syria's arms stockpile, he said there are no signs of that happening.

In this week's incident, Israeli warplanes conducted a rare airstrike inside Syria, according to U.S. officials who said the target was a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran.

On Thursday, Syria threatened to retaliate, while Hezbollah condemned the attack as "barbaric aggression." Iran, which supplies arms to Syria, Hezbollah and the Hamas militant group in Gaza, said the airstrike would have significant implications for Israel.

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