For First Time, Netanyahu Admits Israel Struck Arms Shipments en Route to Hezbollah in Syria

PM says Israel would exhaust all options to protect itself before entering battlefield; according to foreign reports, Israel carried out numerous strikes in Syria and Lebanon, destroying weaponry meant for Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to soldiers in the Golan Heights, April 11, 2016.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel struck dozens of weapons shipments in Syria that were en route to Hezbollah.

This was the first time the prime minister has publicly admitted to the strikes in Israel's neighbor, after numerous reports by foreign media that Israel carried out such attacks.

"We act when we need to act, including here across the border, with dozens of strikes meant to prevent Hezbollah [from obtaining] game-changing weaponry," Netanyahu said during a visit to an Israel Defense Forces military exercise in the Golan Heights..

"We are also working on other fronts, near and far, but we do it intelligently. If we were to be required to enter the battlefield – and this option is possible – it will be because we could not have addressed the dangers to the State of Israel in any other way."

In January the Daily Beast reported Russia was supplying arms to Hezbollah as part of its ongoing operations in Syria, where it is working in conjunction with Iran and the Assad regime. A few weeks later, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow, Zvi Heifetz, addressed the reports and said that Russia assured Israel that it has not transferred and will not transfer arms to Hezbollah in the course of its military operations in Syria.

The Daily Beast report quoted Hezbollah commanders as saying the Russians were giving Hezbollah surface-to-surface missiles, laser-guided rockets and Russian-made antitank missiles. The commanders also said that Russia had placed no conditions on the weapons’ use. Moreover, the report said, Russia had asked Hezbollah to guard its arsenals in Syria, thereby giving Hezbollah access to all the weapons stored there.

According to foreign reports, Israel has carried out numerous attacks in Syria and Lebanon, destroying weaponry that it believes was destined for Hezbollah. Israel has never publically admitted to carrying out the attacks, but it did vow to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining any game-changing arms.

In February, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel struck military outposts in Syria, near the capital Damascus. A Pro-Assad military source denied the report, claiming that there have been no Israeli armed strikes inside Syria. The Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar has also denied that report.

In October 2015, sources in the Syrian opposition reported that the Israeli air force attacked facilities belonging to the Syrian regime and to Hezbollah forces in the Al-Qalamoun mountains in Syria, near the Lebanon border.