Israeli Jets Said to Conduct Airstrike Inside Syria

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Male: The following was recorded at 4PM Eastern time.

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. One of the most feared scenarios in Syria's civil war is that dangerous Syrian weapons fall into the wrong hands. That's especially worrisome for neighboring Israel and today there are reports that Israeli jets attacked a convoy that may have been carrying weapons from Syria to militants in Lebanon. The World's Matthew Bell is Jerusalem following the story. Matthew, what are you sources saying about the supposed attack?

Matthew Bell: Marco, nobody's saying anything on the record, but there are now several reports based on anonymous sources that are saying there was indeed an Israeli airstrike on a weapons convoy, as you mentioned, somewhere near the Syrian-Lebanese border. It's not exactly clear where it happened or precisely what the convoy might have been carrying, but this follows reports from yesterday that Israeli planes were flying over Lebanese airspace. And experts say that the details of the story as they've come out are entirely plausible.

Werman: So still unconfirmed, but the basic narrative is that these weapons were being carried into Lebanon to who knows who, but what then is Israel's concern?

Bell: Israeli officials have expressed a lot of concern about the unrest in Syria creating a possible security threat for Israel, which is right next door. They're especially concerned about the transfer of chemical weapons from Syria. Syria's chemical weapons arsenal is no joke. It's modern, it's sophisticated, it's very scary for Israelis. They're worried about those weapons being transferred to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that's based in southern Lebanon and they might just want to do something about that.

Werman: I mean if Israel did strike this convoy, to some extent that's not really surprising because hasn't Israel in recent days been warning about crossing certain red lines when it comes to Syria?

Bell: They have explicitly and they'e mentioned the chemical weapons. That's probably the biggest red line. They say that they're worried about these weapons potentially falling into the hands of some of the Islamist radical groups that are also fighting in Syria to topple the government. So yes, the details aren't so surprising, but if this did happen it is significant. Israel, this would be the first time that Israel would have been directly involved in hostilities connected to the unrest that's going on for almost two years now in Syria.

Werman: And it's not just chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction. Israel is also concerned about you know, basic light weapons like surface to air missiles, right?

Bell: Right, which you can say they're light weapons, but from the Israeli point of view they could be a game changer. It's interesting, I just was reading a story yesterday on one of the Israeli news sites that was specifically describing SA-17 surface to air missile systems and the concern there was these were being bought by the Syrians from the Russians and there was a worry they could be transferred to Israel's enemies. That story came out yesterday and then today we have the story about the airstrike.

Werman: Right. Matthew, I've also been reading reports that Israel's missile defense system, known is Iron Dome, is being redeployed as well. Can you give us a sense where those units are going and why?

Bell: Israel has about half a dozen of these. These are very sophisticated antimissile missile systems that the Israelis put into action during the recent war with Gaza. There were reports in recent days that two of these Iron Dome systems were moved to Haifa, which is Israel's big port city in the North that's close to Lebanon. That's another dot you can connect here in this story.

Werman: We'll leave it there. The World's Matthew Bell in Jerusalem. Thanks a lot.

Bell: You're welcome, Marco.