Israel still isn't (officially) talking about what they were doing in Syria last week, but American officials have revealed a few new details about their cross-border attack. The New York Times reports that a research center belived to be used by Syria to develop chemical and biological weapons, was indeed damaged in the attack, but that it was a side effect of Israel's real mission. The actual purpose was to destroy a convoy of "SA-17 missiles and their launchers," but since the trucks they were sitting on happened to be at the facility, the damage to the center was merely a positive side effect for them.
The Israelis may have believed the SA-17s were destined to carry chemical weapons, but even if they remained conventional, there was a fear that they would soon be transferred to Hezbollah agents in Lebanaon,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak would not directly confirm that Israel was behind the attack, but when asked about it at a press conference this weekend, he said that "what you have read in the newspapers" was "another proof that when we say something we mean it." What they mean is that they don't want Syria's weapons flooding Lebanon if the regime collapses, and they have no problem sending fighter planes into other countries if they think they need do it. (They're looking at you, Iran.)
One person who isn't afraid to talk about it is, Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian president accused Israel of being "in collaboration with foreign enemy forces and their agents... to destabilize and weaken Syria," but that Syria is capable of stopping "current threats... and aggression." Israel has no plans to escalate at this point, but if Assad decides it is in his interest to drag Israel into his civil war (in the hopes of winning Arab neighbors back to his side), Israel may not hesitate. And the situation in Syria could get much uglier, very quickly.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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