Israeli warplanes struck several targets inside Syria overnight Tuesday, including a biological weapons research center that was reportedly flattened out of concern that it might fall into the hands of Islamist extremists fighting to topple the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Western intelligence officials tell TIME.Meanwhile, from Hurriyet(Turkey):
So far only two airstrikes have been publicly reported, amid a flurry of conflicting initial reports. Syria officially complained of the destruction of the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Jamarya northwest of Damascus. And a variety of news organizations reported that Israeli jets hit a convoy carrying advanced anti-aircraft defense systems toward Lebanon’s Bakaa Valley, presumably for delivery to Hizballah, the militant Shi’ite group closely allied with the Assad regime. If they had been deployed, those SA-17 ground-to-air missiles would intimidated Israeli pilots who now operate over Lebanese airspace with impunity, forcing them to higher altitudes and other operational precautions.
A Western intelligence official indicated to TIME that at least one to two additional targets were hit the same night, without offering details. Officials also said that Israel had a “green light” from Washington to launch yet more such strikes.
Hizballah is not Israel’s only concern – or perhaps even the most worrying. Details of the Israeli strikes make clear the risk posed by fundamentalist militants sprinkled among the variegated rebel forces fighting to depose Assad. The jihadists are overwhelmingly home-grown Sunni militants but also include foreigners drawn to the fight from across the Muslim world. Loosely organized into several fighting groups, some fighters embrace the almost nihilist ideology associated with al-Qaeda. But jihadist groups are less vulnerable to the same levers that have proved effective against Syria and other states – such as threats to its territory — or even the frank interests of an organization like Hizballah, which as a political party plays a major role in Lebanon’s government.
“If we succeeded all these years to deter the Syrians and all the other surrounding countries that possess weapons of mass destruction [from making] use of it, it’s because we knew how to deliver the message, that the price would be very high,” Amnon Sofrin, a retired brigadier and former senior Mossad official, told reporters this week. “What kind of threat can you put in the face of a terror organization?”
In other words, it may be easier to attack the problem from the other side — simply destroy the weapons you’re afraid they’ll get their hands on. Among the buildings leveled at the military complex at Jamarya, outside Damascus, were warehouses stocked with equipment necessary for the deployment of chemical and biological weapons, relatively complicated systems typically manned by specially trained forces. The lab facilities dedicated to biological warfare were of special concern, given both the damage that can be done by even small amounts of biological agents, and the interest expressed in such weapons by Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. No specific armed force was identified as threatening the compound. Intelligence officials said the concern was unconventional weapons “dripping” into control of extremists in the relative chaos of the rebel side.
One Western intelligence official told TIME the U.S. military was poised to carry out similar airstrikes around Aleppo if rebels threaten to take sites associated with weapons of mass destruction in that region.
...“I’m not going to give any condemnation of Israel or rush into any criticism,” British foreign secretary William Hauge told the BBC on Thursday. “There may be many things about it that we don’t know, or the Arab League or Russia don’t know.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized the Israeli raid in Syria this week, severely questioning Damascus' inaction on the aggression. "Why didn't [Bashar] al-Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?" Davutoğlu told reporters on his way to Serbian capital Belgrade for a bilateral visit.The general rule is that Muslims defend other Muslims, no matter how sickeningly evil they are, when any non-Muslim attacks them.
"Why didn't the Syrian Army, which has been attacking its own innocent people for 22 months now from the air with jets and by land with tanks and artillery fire, respond to Israel's operation? Why can't al-Assad, who gave order to fire SCUD missiles at Aleppo, do anything against Israel?" Davutoğlu said.
Davutoğlu said they did not know the precise circumstances of the raid but added that Turkey would not stay unresponsive to an Israeli attack against any Muslim country.
Davutoğlu also accused Syria's embattled leader of having made a secret deal with Israel. "Is there a secret agreement between al-Assad and Israel? Wasn't the Syrian army founded to protect its country and its people against this sort of aggression? The al-Assad regime only abuses. Why don't you use the same power that you use against defenseless women against Israel, which you have seen as an enemy since its foundation," he said.
NATO should take note.