Airstrikes by Israeli warplanes inside Syria on Wednesday were directed at weapons stockpiled by the Iran-backed terror group, Hezbollah, according to reports in the Israeli media on Thursday. The air strikes, which have not been officially confirmed by the Israeli government, would be the second by Israel in two weeks directed at Hezbollah inside Syria — as well as the second since Russia first unleashed airstrikes of its own inside the civil-war torn country.
A report on Thursday in the the Jerusalem Post cited operatives loyal to Syria's embattled Bashar al-Assad regime, who claimed in social media that jets sent by the Israel Defense Force had carried out the strikes on "military outposts" around Damascus Airport in Syria.
The strikes, according to the Post, were also reported by a Syrian opposition activist, Ahmad Yabrudi.
"Israeli warplanes entered from south Lebanon, arrived at Qalamoun and flew above the international airport in Damascus where they struck nearby military outposts... The Israeli planes remained in Syria's skies for a half hour, and there is no information about the outposts that were hit — except that they belonged to Hezbollah."Another leading Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, cited a pro-Assad media outlet, Damascus Now, saying that the strikes resulted in heavy fires and smoke, with reports of blasts being heard around the airport area.
While Israel maintains a "no comment" policy on airstrikes inside Syria, the government there has previously announced a policy of zero tolerance toward weapons shipments intended for Hezbollah and other terror groups that pose a threat to Israel, declaring that such weapons shipments or storehouses would "cross a red line."
The paper's report also identified two earlier strikes by Israel inside Syria in 2015, one that killed several Hezbollah fighters and another aimed at the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which also supports the Assad regime in Syria.
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With Russian forces now operating in Syria and backing the Assad regime, the Israeli strikes have raised fears of a potential conflict between Russia and Israel there, a conflict that could quickly escalate into a potentially disastrous military confrontation.
In September, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Moscow — accompanied by top Israeli defense officials — to discuss how to avoid such a conflict and to "ensure there will not be any misunderstandings between our forces," the Israeli leader said.
As Wednesday's reported strikes inside Syria would have taken place, Netanyahu was again out of the country, this time in Washington, where he met on Wednesday with United States Secretary of State John Kerry, following his meeting Monday with President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu cut his United States visit short by several hours, citing a nagging head cold which resulted in a bad sore throat.
Hezbollah, which, according to the CFR report, receives about $200 million per year from Iran and acts as "an effective proxy for Iranian foreign policy" in the region, has carried out numerous terrorist attacks inside Israel, as well against Israeli citizens and Jewish individuals in other countries, including a the 1994 bombing of Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that killed 85.
After a reported, but officially unconfirmed, airstrike against a Hezbollah missile depot inside Syria in April, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon stated that Israel will not permit Iran to supply Hezbollah in Syria with "game changing" weapons.
[Photo By Ariel Schalit / Associated Press File Photo]