Israel mounted two air raids on Syrian military facilities near Damascus this weekend, striking what was believed to be a store of Fatah-110 missiles that were destined for transfer to the Lebanon-based Islamist militant group Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and an arch-nemesis of Israel.
But the strikes weren't intended to weaken Assad -- or even the Syrian opposition, for that matter. Instead, Israel seems singularly focused on preventing Hezbollah from getting stronger as a side effect of the Syrian civil war.
Israel so far hasn't taken a position in the Syrian conflict, largely because it's not especially rooting for either side to win. The Jewish state has had a tense but relatively peaceable relationship with the Assad regime for decades, and it fears what might happen if Syria's rebels -- some of whom, unlike Assad, are hardcore Islamists -- boot out their ruler and take charge.
In fact, Israel so desperately wants to avoid taking sides in the Syrian conflagration that it didn't even formally take responsibility for this weekend's strikes -- an attempt to allow Assad to "save face," Reuters reported. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to China on a scheduled trip Sunday, as if to show Assad and the world that everything was business as usual.