The Fallout from the Air Raid on Syria: Why Israel is Concerned

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attacks but it would have had defensive reasons to stage them

  • Share
  • Read Later
Oren Ziv / Getty Images

An Israeli soldier walks by an 'Iron Dome' short-range missile defense system positioned near the northern city of Haifa on Jan. 31, 2013 in Israel. The Iron Dome missile defense system is designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells.

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.

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.

(PHOTOS: Aleppo’s River of Death)

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.

(MORE: As Bashar Assad Shows His Defiance, Syria Nears Its Existential Cliff)

Sofrin called that logical. “The world should be worried about the possibility that organizations would possess chemical weapons, because we are not the only target in the Middle East,” he told foreign reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday. “Let’s go back to 1983, the attack in Beirut on the barracks of the U.S. marines. 241 people killed on Lebanese soil, because they were Americans, strangers.”

Though no country has intervened in Syria’s civil war directly, Western governments were tracking the country’s WMD arsenal even before peaceful street protests were transformed by the brutality of Assad’s response into an armed rebellion that has killed an estimated 60,000 people.  But Israel and Washington have worked especially closely from the start, and more visibly in recent weeks.When Israeli warplanes began their attack late Wednesday, Israel’s military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi  was at the Pentagon on a working visit.

Tensions were already rising. The week began with word that Israel had moved two of its Iron Dome missile defense batteries to protect cities in northern Israel, facing the Lebanese border. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded a note of urgency at the weekly meeting of cabinet, the membership of which will be reshaped by a new governing—and yet unformed–coalition following Jan. 22 elections:. “The weapons in Syria are not awaiting the the formation of our government,” Netanyahu said.

After the airstrikes, however, Israeli newspapers brimmed with stories assuring residents that the chances of the attacks being answered militarily were considered low. Assad and Hizballah and Iran, which is closely allied with both, are regarded as too busy trying to save the Syrian regime to open a new front. Israel’s military has been quietly reinforcing its northern front for the last two years.  That may be why Syria’s preliminary reaction was a complaint to the United Nations.  In diplomatic terms, surgical strikes launched in the name of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction tend to be well-tolerated by the international community, especially when the attacks are not publicly acknowledged. Israel still does not officially acknowledge its secret 2007 destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor.

“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.”

At the same time, Israeli officials raised their guard at embassies and other potential targets overseas, citing Hizballah’s history of seeking retribution through terror attacks. Friday’s suicide bombing at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey,  was attributed to a Turkish leftist group, but made headlines on Hebrew language with a speed driven in part by a new apprehension.

PHOTOS: From The Front Lines: Syria By Narcisco Contreras

69 comments
prometheus2054
prometheus2054

@EXSKF 「戦争」というかもはや「侵略」…。「暴行」を「体罰」、「暴行・傷害・恐喝」という「犯罪」を「いじめ」と言い換えるダブルスピークと同じですね。

friendlysmilepi
friendlysmilepi

@morgfair @TIMEWorld @Stevenav @BedellRick With good reason. Threats come from many sources and directions.

rwac48
rwac48

@ParamjitGarewal @timeworld Makes sense.

GloriaHiggs1
GloriaHiggs1

Brianna. true that Kathy`s blog is nice... last week I got a gorgeous Mazda MX-5 since I been making $7091 this last 5 weeks and just a little over 10-k last-munth. with-out any doubt it's the most comfortable work I've ever had. I began this seven months/ago and almost immediately started to make at least $73 per/hr. I went to this web-site, Great60.comTAKE A LOOK

ShawnArscott
ShawnArscott

Israel flattened a biological weapons research centre - WHAT! - IS there no worries that a biological weapon ie deadly virus would get free blowing in the wind?

TizzAlNabi
TizzAlNabi

Israel is clearly defending itself from immediate danger and is condemed in some quarters, while the US and the UK kill unknown numbers of civilians in drone strikes, France kills unknown numbers of civilians in Mali and no one says a word.

obamba
obamba

5 million Jews, in a country whose size is like a sand grain in the middle east, constantly choosing war over peace with all its Arabic neighbors, in quest for more land, more control and more power. And maybe enforce the eating of Matza-balls on passover.  It's funny.

40% of Israel is a desert (The southern part,) and hardly anyone lives there. Israel does not need any "lebensraum-" nobody in Israel thinks like this, nobody talks about it, I have no idea where you guys bring these things up. 

Now, I urge you to please look at the map, just for laughs. Look at the middle east: Look at Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and then look at that small dot called "Israel."

Does it seem more logical to you that that little Israel wishes to take over the entire middle east?
Or is it more logical, that that little state only wishes to not be devoured by its surroundings the next morning?

The one and only quest that Israel does indeed have is to protect its democracy, and to keep it a safe place for all Jews around the world. It was built as a Jewish state, to fulfill just that.

Now please tell me, that if Arabs had their goal and turned Israel into a Sharia state, that it would be safe there for the Jews?
Please tell me, that if Israelis were to walk out and leave, and returned perhaps to Europe, that another Genocide would not await them?
Please tell me, what would you have done, if you were among those 5 million Jews living in Israel.

It would might surprise you but, many Israelis are now watching the rise of Muslims in Europe rather. Why are they constantly saying they want to enforce Sharia throughout Europe? Why are they calling to behead anyone who insults Islam? Behead Jews and Christians? On European soil?  How is Europe dealing with it? 


BEEBALM2010
BEEBALM2010

@IvanCNN And honestly, reason Patriots moved to Turkey...thx, Ivan

beirutwhat
beirutwhat

@IvanCNN I think it's more likely that Israelis judged Assad to be in a weakened position. Took advantage to stop a SAM transfer to Hezbo.

JanaStock
JanaStock

Israel is using every single bad circumstance for it's own favor that's a fact 


ArxFerrum
ArxFerrum

The media plays this story like a guitar, plucking each string to produce a preferred sound. But, in truth, Israel doesn't do things like this without first having a good reason and weighing the ramifications to come. With Iranian/Hizbollah-sponsored propaganda being so successful in creating a new generation of angry, antisemitic, fascist Jew haters, Israel was (and is) well aware that the main scream media would further the effect by running negatively slanted stories on the subject. 

If you think this this mission was carried out without good reason or simply for someone's amusement... then you can bet there is a big, wet kiss waiting for you in Tehran. 



jati
jati

Good, bad or worse,Israel is the only country which is fighting terrorist with determination.These Arab countries are contaminated with Islamist bug which is not easy to control, but contained.

JohanWagenaar
JohanWagenaar

I think in the  long run Israel is preparing for a strike at the nuclear plant in Iran when that is needed, Israel is cleaning there surroudings, when they see a potential danger then Israel strikes. !     Israel not alowing dangerous arabic countries having a nuclear bomb ! and Israel preparing when other party like hezbolla want to strike Israel when Iran wants to strike back !

BarakRavid
BarakRavid

@julianborger its not the right link

ParamjitGarewal
ParamjitGarewal

@ParamjitGarewal @TIMEWorld @rwac48 @jjauthor @saloumehz @MargieInTelAviv -PreventW M D Chem&biological weaponsFallin intoJihadists hands

fadliarrahmani
fadliarrahmani

@TIME @TIMEWorld Israel just intends to show off. a bluffing before the next Iran.

spmmoi
spmmoi

@Amirmizroch @karl_vick "If they had been deployed, those SA-17 ground-to-air missiles would (intimidated) Israeli pilots..." In the article

katedoak
katedoak

@jessradio That report goes further than just the supposed bio-weapons. It shows just how much Syria’s air defence has degraded.

wildstrange1
wildstrange1

@SlaughterAM How come the US give a blind eye concerning the daily massacres done by Issad and hi gang?!

ErenEduarte
ErenEduarte

It was a good deeds what Israel has done. Pre-emptied more chaos in middle east. Let the factions of Sunni and Shia settle their biblical separation and disagreement about their posted "rulers", impact, we knew they are "brothers". Let them reconcile their differences first. then, WE HAVE PEACE FOREVER.

mycatbirdseat
mycatbirdseat

When will the news media quit using kid gloves to deal with belligerency of Israel? 

Israel is a threat to its neighbours.  Israel invades and attacks it neighbours. Israel consistently provokes its neigbours.  Israel sits on 300-400 nuclear weapons in a nuclear free Middle East. Israel is insecure ?  "Iran's possible acquisition of some nuclear weapons someday pales in the shadow of Israel's existing nuclear arsenal."  Why is Israel treated like the victim it is not? Israel is a danger to world peace.

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

I'm sorry. Did I miss something? Is there anything in this article that even remotely suggests Israeli is concerned about having struck these Syrian targets? No. I didn't think so. What a flimsy article. Iran is as anti-Israel as they've ever been. And now Egypt is just a couple of bad decisions away from lurching towards screwing up their peace treaty with Israel. And to the poster talking about Israel staying inside her borders. Are you kidding? Exactly what is America, France and the UK doing these days? My gawd, people, Israel is far from perfect but she has every right to protect herself. Lord knows she surrounding by more enemies that she can count.

mrxexon
mrxexon

Had Syria or Lebanon violated Israel's borders with an airstrike, we would hear no end of it. It would be war. No doubt about it. Why should Israel continue to get an exemption for doing the same thing to other countries?

Gonna be hell to pay for this someday.


x

EXSKF
EXSKF

@prometheus2054 おまけに、みんなが見て見ないふりをして、口にも出さない、これは「クライムストップ」。オーウェルの世界が実現。

Fin
Fin

@obamba  

Democracy is a word Israel hides behind! Just because the Immigrant settlers on Palestinian land change their minds and vote for another gang of thugs doesn't make it a good thing!

They are still murdering,  military occupying Thugs!

SaloumehZ
SaloumehZ

RT @paramjitgarewal: @ParamjitGarewal @TIMEWorld @rwac48 @MargieInTelAviv -PreventW M D Chem&biological weaponsFallin intoJihadists hands

Vinmeistr
Vinmeistr

@mycatbirdseat 

Maybe because they are the only democracy in the region. You sound like a fan of the rest of the region, you know, the radical Islamists, monarchies and despots. These are the people you complain about Israel for? Really?

mrxexon
mrxexon

@worleyeoe 

 Enemies that have been carefully cultivated. The zionists are in the protection business. This is how they maintain their power in Israel.

 And BTW, Israel has a history of crossing the line. It goes back decades. Yet, we still furnish them the aircraft that's responsible for it.

x

WilliamBarnes
WilliamBarnes

@mrxexon Probably because most of the nations that agree with Israel on the planet are democracies, not theocracies. Y'know? Where the PEOPLE VOTE?

prometheus2054
prometheus2054

@EXSKF 日本なんてダブルスピークが横行し、当の国民は二重思考者だらけで、完全に「1984」の世界です。「事実は小説より奇なり」を体感w 恐ろしいです。

BarakRavid
BarakRavid

@julianborger where is the link to the hammond interview?

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

@mrxexon @worleyeoe Let me guess. You're 1st cousins with Morsi and Amhadinejad?

Israel has a history of doing cross border attacks? Really? I had no idea. Oh and you mean like our furnishing military equipment to Egypt and all sorts of other countries who aren't exactly true allies with Israel.

You need to start acting more intelligent than you think you are.

Amirmizroch
Amirmizroch

@julianborger @BarakRavid reliable as the Sphinx

BarakRavid
BarakRavid

@julianborger I think he did according to Barak's schedule. Barak is probably his source

julianborger
julianborger

@BarakRavid Source is me just having come from talking to him. Its oven-fresh. Am checking whether he had Barak bilat..

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

@mrxexon @worleyeoe Yes. And your point is?

Do you understand how little land Israel occupies in the Middle East among all the Muslim nations, most of which hate Israel because it's enshrined in their Koran? Why should anyone really care how powerful Israel is both in terms of conventional and nuclear weapons. Without this power, they would have already been wiped off the map as Iran wishes. Why can't the Palestinians in Gaza go live in Jordan? I mean it's not as if Jordan represents more than 80% of what used to be their homeland anyway. Almost every modern country in the Middle East came as the result of the end of WWI and WWI? Why can't the Zionist live in peace? These are all very good questions that most people like yourself can't answer.

mrburns
mrburns

Israel allows every citizen to vote, that includes Arabs. There are elected arab representaives in the Knesset/ Israel allows free practice of all religions. Israel does hang gays or lesbians. Israel has a fre press. In short Israel is a modern western democracy, without any trace o aparthied, and is the only such state in the Mid East.

Radical Islam isnt new, it is fundamentalist . It is what Islam has been for the last thousand years, a violent expansionist religion at war with all who are not muslims. Did the US marine attack Tripoli in the 1800s because of radical Judaism or because then, as now, Muslims climed the right , in fact the duty, to enslave or kill all non-muslims .

mrxexon
mrxexon

@WilliamBarnes @mrxexon 

 Now you're preaching to the choir. I was in Alabama in 1962. Democracy only worked for white people. Just like Israel's democracy only works for Jews.

 Black people didn't vote their way out of segregation. It took some demonstrations and civil disobdience to change the minds of the white power structure. Otherwise, it would still be going on.

 At some point, the people of Israel will understand that their segregated culture is what's adding fuel to the fire in the region. Radical Islam in the form we see today was born in response to radical Judaism. Remove the zionists, you'll see the entire Middle East settle down. Muslims are just as tired of the violence. They will mop up the troublemakers on their side in time once the fuel that drives radical Islam has been taken away.

It all starts with removing Israel from our teat. Not abandon them, but realizing that we are a major supporter in a culture that needs to see change in order to survive. 

If Israel doesn't change, it's not going to survive. And it poses a grave danger to us in it's present condition.

WilliamBarnes
WilliamBarnes

@mrxexon @WilliamBarnes Even though in today's light 1962 American (Alabama) democracy is considered primitive, at that time it was an amazing beginning of a new era. Have you got something against democracy?