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Israel Launches Airstrike in Syria to Stop Missile Shipment to Hezbollah

The international community is reacting today to news that Israel conducted an airstrike in Syria, reportedly to stop a shipment of missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militia, a longtime enemy of Israel.

The Israeli move comes as American officials are pondering what to do about reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against Syrian citizens in its bloody civil war. While visiting Costa Rica yesterday, President Obama said he was not ruling out anything “because circumstances change,” but he didn’t foresee a scenario in which “American boots on the ground in Syria” would be good for either nation. He said he had consulted with Middle Eastern leaders and they agreed with him.

While American officials were reluctant to provide details on the target of the strike, Israeli officials were quoted by the Associated Press as saying the target was a shipment of advanced missiles bound for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon. The official said the shipment did not include chemical arms, but described the missiles as “game changing.”

Israel carried out airstrikes in January against SA-17 anti-aircraft weapons, which they feared were about to be moved to Hezbollah. Israel has kept close watch on the movement of materials to Hezbollah from Syria, fearful that Hezbollah might get its hands on chemical weapons and advanced arms that could be used against Israel.

“Chemicals maybe get a lot of press and attention, but one of the clear things worrying us is advanced conventional weapons,” one senior Israeli official told the New York Times.

Syria has been used as a supply depot for sending Iranian weapons to Hezbollah, taking advantage of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s close relationship with Hezbollah.

According to the Times, Hezbollah has sent trainers and advisers to Syria to help Assad fight the Syrian opposition. Syrian opposition officials have reported that Hezbollah fighters have been involved in the conflict.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined on Friday night to comment on the attack, first reported by CNN, issuing a statement saying, “Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, specially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

In a report out of Syria, the opposition has accused Assad’s military of carrying out more attacks on the Mediterranean seaport of Baniyas and the village of Bayda, where dozens of civilians, including children, were found dead Thursday, some stabbed and burned. Those attacks should be considered another war crime, according to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the main anti-Assad political group.

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