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Israel to ‘continue’ targeting Hezbollah-bound arms in Syria

Jack Guez, AFP | An Israeli F-15 fighter jet takes off during an air show near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva on December 29, 2016.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel's latest air strikes into Syria targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and that it will continue to carry out such raids.


Netanyahu’s statement came after Israeli warplanes struck several targets within Syria, and Syria fired missiles back in retaliation.

"When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it," he said in footage aired on Israel's major television networks.

"That's how it was yesterday and that's how we shall continue to act," Netanyahu added.

Israeli aerial defence systems intercepted one of the Syrian missiles, the Israeli army said, without elaborating. It would not say whether any other missiles struck Israeli-held territory, but said the safety of civilians and aircraft was "not compromised".

Israel is widely believed to have carried out several airstrikes in recent years on advanced weapons systems in Syria – including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles – as well as Hezbollah positions.

It rarely comments on such operations and the military statement detailing the raid and comments confirming the operation by the prime minister were highly unusual.

Israel denies plane shot down

Hezbollah is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad in the brutal Syrian civil war. The Iran-backed group is sworn to Israel's destruction and fought a month-long war with the Jewish state in 2006.

The firing of missiles from Syria toward Israeli aircraft is rare, though Israeli military officials reported a shoulder-fired missile attack a few months ago.

Israeli Channel 10 TV reported that Israel deployed its Arrow defence system for the first time against a real threat and hit an incoming missile, intercepting it before it exploded in Israel.

However, Arrow is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles high in the stratosphere, so it remained unclear why the system would have been used in this particular incident.

The Israeli military would not comment on the type of system used.

Israel's powerful transportation and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz told the station "our message is clear, we will not be complacent with a Syrian policy that arms Hezbollah".

"The fact that the incident developed into a situation where Israel claimed responsibility and the Syrians responded is significant," he added.

A Syrian military statement said four Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace – flying into Syria through Lebanese territory – and targeted a military position in central Syria.

Damascus said Syrian anti-aircraft systems confronted the planes and claimed one of the jets was shot down in Israeli-controlled territory and that another was hit. The Israeli military denied the claim, saying none of the jets had been hit.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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