Reports: Israeli Planes Attack Hezbollah Targets on Lebanon-Syria Border

PM Netanyahu indirectly responds: 'I am not speaking about claims that have been made about what we did or didn't do. Our policy is clear - we do what we have to in order to secure Israel.'

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Israeli warplanes attacked targets on the border between Lebanon and Syria on Monday night, according to the Lebanese national news agency. In Jerusalem, officials refused to comment on the reports.

At a joint cabinet meeting between Israel and a German delegation headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly commented on the alleged Israeli strike in Lebanon. Without specifically mentioning Lebanon, Netanyahu said, "I am not speaking about claims that have been made about what we did or didn't do. Our policy is clear - we do what we have to in order to secure Israel."

Al Arabiya News reported that a number of Hezbollah members were killed in the raid. However, the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which has ties to the organization, denied that any Hezbollah members were killed or wounded in the strike.

It was the first attack on the Lebanese-Syria border that has been attributed to Israel this year. According to foreign news sources there were at least six such attacks during 2013.

All the previous attacks targeted weapons deliveries from Syria to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Daily Star reported that the Janta area is known to house a Hezbollah post, where recruitment and training of fighters are carried out. Janta is also a well-known route for arms smuggling between Lebanon and Syria, it said.

The Israeli aircraft attacked on the Lebanese side of the border at about 10:30 P.M. Monday night, in the area of the Lebanese towns of Janta and Nabi Sheet in the Bekaa Valley. Most of the attacks attributed to Israel in the past were on the Syrian side of the border.

Israel has consistently refused to comment officially on reports of strikes against targets in Lebanon and Syria, though senior officials have hinted at Israel's participation at times, saying that Israel would not tolerate the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.

The earlier strikes hit shipments of quality weapons systems: accurate land-to-sea missiles, and long-range anti-ship "Yakhont" missiles, SI-17 advanced anti-aircraft missiles, and precise mid-range Fateh-110 rockets.

The extensive assistance Iran and Hezbollah have provided to the regime in Syria deepens President Bashar Assad's commitment to respond to the Shi'ite militia's requests to improve the arms it has at its disposal. Various intelligence sources believe that Assad has managed to pass large quantities of advanced weaponry to Syria, despite Israel's extensive efforts to thwart the transfers.

Before Monday, Syria and Hezbollah had avoided responding to strikes attributed to Israel, even though Assad blamed Israel for attacks on a number of occasions last year, even hinting that he would open a front against Israel in the Golan Heights in response.

In practice, however, the embattled Syrian president did not do this out of fear he would lose in a direct conflict with the Israel Defense Forces, which could be a boost for the Syrian opposition in the civil war.

According to Israeli and western intelligence sources, as long as there was a "space of denial" in which Israel does not directly address attacks, Assad could keep holding back on them.

To date, at least, it seems as if Hezbollah has used a similar policy as that of Assad. Given the Shi'ite group's involvement in the fighting in Syria, and the increasing violence within Lebanon itself, between Hezbollah and the Sunni camp, an opponent of Assad would also prefer Hezbollah to hold back.

Hezbollah supporters wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags during a rally in Nabi Sheet village in 2011. Credit: AP

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