BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian television has broadcast images of what it said is the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on a research facility near Damascus earlier this week, showing destroyed vehicles and moderate damage to a building.
In Germany, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak made statements on Sunday strongly implying that Israel had carried out Wednesday’s airstrike, which the U.S says was targeting a weapons convoy. The Jewish state had not until now officially acknowledged the attack.
“What happened in Syria several days ago … that’s proof that when we said something we mean it — we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon,” Barak said at a security conference.
U.S. officials say the strike hit a convoy of anti-aircraft weapons bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah while the vehicles were still on Syrian territory. The Syrian military said the target of Israeli jets was a scientific research center in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus.
The strike raised tensions between Israel and its neighbor Syria, which is engulfed by a raging civil war. It adds another layer to the complexity of the near two-year-old Syrian conflict that has left the international community at a loss for ways to end bloodshed.
The first purported images of the targeted site, aired by Al-Ikhbariya TV on Saturday, show the twisted and battered remnants of cars, trucks and military vehicles. A building has broken widows and damaged interiors, but no major structural damage. The caption says, “Consequences of the Israeli aggression on the Jamraya center.”
State TV also ran footage of the damage, saying that the images show the “results of aggression.”
Syria’s regime vowed revenge for the airstrike, while the rebels battling President Bashar Assad criticized him for not responding to what they also termed Israeli aggression.
According to a U.S. official, the strike targeted trucks containing SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The trucks were next to the research center the Syrians identified, and the strikes hit both the trucks and the facility.
Advanced anti-aircraft missiles like the SA-17 in the hands of Hezbollah could change the strategic equation, which so far has allowed Israel to send warplanes over Lebanon practically unopposed.
The Syrian military denied that the target of the attack was a weapons convoy. It said low-flying Israeli jets crossed into the country over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to target the Jamraya center.
Until Wednesday, Israel has been reluctant to do anything that would seem an intervention into Syria’s conflict.
The uprising against Assad began in March 2011 with largely peaceful pro-reform protests and developed into a civil war which the United Nations says has killed more than 60,000 people. The Syrian government maintains that there is no uprising in Syria but a conspiracy against the country because of its support for anti-Israeli groups.
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, Zeina Karam in Beirut, and David Rising in Munich contributed to this report.
Official Wire and AP
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