Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today noted with “grave concern” reports of Israeli air strikes in Syria and called on all concerned to prevent an escalation of tensions in the region.What do we know about what happened?
“The Secretary-General notes with grave concern reports of Israeli air strikes in Syria. At this time, the United Nations does not have details of the reported incident. Nor is the United Nations in a position to independently verify what has occurred,” said a note issued by Mr. Ban’s office.
“The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to prevent tensions or their escalation in the region, and to strictly abide by international law, in particular in respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region.”
Here's the NYT:
Many questions swirled about the target, motivations and repercussions of the Israeli attack, which Arab and Israeli analysts said demonstrated the rapid changes in the region’s strategic picture as Mr. Assad’s government weakens — including the possibility that Hezbollah, Syria or both were moving arms to Lebanon, believing they would be more secure there than with Syria’s beleaguered military, which faces intense attacks by rebels on major weapons installations.Apparently, either Israel hit a convoy transporting weapons to Hezbollah, or a depot for weapons meant to go to Hezbollah, or a plant that manufactures weapons of mass destruction - or a combination of the three.
American officials said Israel hit a convoy before dawn on Wednesday that was ferrying sophisticated SA-17 antiaircraft missiles to Lebanon. The Syrians and their allies said the target was a research facility in the Damascus suburb of Jamraya.
It remained unclear Thursday whether there was one strike or two. Also unclear was the research outpost’s possible role in weapons production or storage for Syria or Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite organization that has long battled with Israel and plays a leading role in the Lebanese government.
The Jamraya facility, several miles west of Damascus, produces both conventional and chemical weapons, said Maj. Gen. Adnan Salo, a former head of the chemical weapons unit in the Syrian Army who defected and is now in Turkey.
Hezbollah indirectly confirmed its military function in condemning the attack on Arab and Muslim “military and technological capabilities.” That raised the possibility that Israel targeted weapons manufacturing or development, in an attack reminiscent of its 2007 assault on a Syrian nuclear reactor, a strike Israeli never acknowledged.
But military analysts said that the Israeli jets’ flight pattern strongly suggested a moving target, possibly a convoy near the center, and that the Syrian government might have claimed the center was a target to garner sympathy. Hitting a convoy made more sense, they said, particularly if Israel believed that Hezbollah stood to acquire “game-changing” arms, including antiaircraft weapons. Israeli leaders declared days before the strike that any transfer of Syria’s extensive cache of sophisticated conventional or chemical weapons was a “red line” that would prompt action.
Hezbollah — backed by Syria and Iran — wants to upgrade its arsenal in hopes of changing the parameters for any future engagement with the powerful Israeli military, and Israel is determined to stop it. And Hezbollah is perhaps even more anxious to gird itself for future challenges to its primacy in Lebanon, especially if a Sunni-led revolution triumphs next door in Syria.
But if weapons were targeted, analysts said, it is not even clear that they belonged to Hezbollah. Arab and Israeli analysts said another possibility was that Syria was simply aiming to move some weapons to Lebanon for safekeeping. While there are risks for Hezbollah that accepting them could draw an Israeli attack, said Emile Hokayem, a Bahrain-based analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there is also an upside: “If Assad goes down, they have the arms.”
Those suggestions comported with the account of a Syrian officer who said in a recent interview that the heavily guarded military area around the Jamraya research facility was used as a weapons transfer station to southern Lebanon and Syria’s coastal government stronghold of Tartous for safekeeping, in convoys of tractor-trailer trucks. (The officer said he had lost faith in the government but hesitated to defect because he did not trust the rebels.)
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Hezbollah should be dismantled as an independent armed force. According to 1701, arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah are prohibited. According to everyone, Syrian chemical weapons are a serious threat to the entire region.
Yet Ban Ki Moon could only rebuke Israel for doing what the UN cannot and is seemingly unwilling to do. The UN forces in Lebanon have stood by impotently since 2006 watching Hezbollah illegally build a huge arsenal of smuggled arms from Syria for its private terror army - and Moon personally made that decision to keep the UNIFIL forces impotent.
It looks like the only operative parts of 1701 that remain are the ones that can be used against Israel.