Israel Denies Report It Struck Near Syria-Lebanon Border

The attack attributed to Israel early on Monday was part of the battle between Hezbollah, Assad's army and Syrian rebels, a source in the security establishment says.

Jack Khoury
Gili Cohen
Amos Harel
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An Israeli F-16 fighter jet.Credit: AP
Jack Khoury
Gili Cohen
Amos Harel

An Israeli source on Monday denied a report that the Israeli army struck missile batteries belonging to Hezbollah and the Syrian army near the Syria-Lebanon border. A report by Al Jazeera said late on Sunday that the attack resulted in several casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit would not confirm or deny the  allegation, saying they do not comment on foreign reports. This is the third attack in Syria in the past three days that has been attributed to Israel. But unlike the two other strikes, it seems that this report is less credible.  

A source in the Israeli defense establishment denied the report. The attack attributed to Israel, he said, was part of the fighting between Nusra Front, Hezbollah and Assad's army in the Qalamoun region. Israel has no interest in getting involved in the conflict between the sides, he said. 

Factions in the Syrian opposition said on social media that they have four units stationed in the Qalamoun region, and claimed that they were responsible for the attack on the Syrian missile base. The opposition units fired some 30 Grad rockets at the base, they said.

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is considered close to Hezbollah, on Monday reported that Hezbollah has been preparing for an escalation in the Syrian front as the weather improves. Until now, the cold winter and heavy snow has limited the combat capabilities of both sides.

The report of the overnight strike came hours after an Israeli Air Force aircraft struck a militant cell that was trying to place an explosive device on Israel's border with Syria.

At around 9:30 P.M. Israeli troops watching the border noticed four figures approaching the fence between Israel and Syria and placing the bomb. The cell was on the eastern side of the fence, but in effect was on Israeli territory.

The IAF aircraft then struck the cell, killing three of the militants, according to the IDF. In all likelihood the fourth militant was also hit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the event that "any attempt to harm our soldiers or our citizens will be met with a decisive response like tonight's IDF operation that prevented a terror attack. I commend the vigilant IDF soldiers that acted quickly and accurately."

This video, posted to social media by opposition forces over the weekend, claims to show the military base after it was attacked:

The reported airstrike is Israel's second strike on Hezbollah targets in Qalamoun in three days. Israeli Air Force reportedly attacked Syrian army bases where Hezbollah stored long-range missiles late Friday night.

The airstrikes reportedly targeted the bases of the 155th and 65th strategic missile brigades, stationed in Qalamoun, near the Syria-Lebanon border. Residents of nearby cities Yabroud and Qarah reported hearing explosions.

According to an Al Arabiya report, Friday night's strikes were preceded by another attack on Wednesday, targeting a Hezbollah convoy carrying weapons. According to the report, at least one person was killed in that attack.

Last month, in wake of the Lausanne talks concerning Iran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "we [in Israel] are not closing our eyes, and we will continue to act against any threat."