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Israeli strike indicates Syria, Hezbollah may have crossed its 'red line'
Israeli jets reportedly carried out an unprecedented airstrike along the Lebanon-Syria border today against an arms convoy carrying advanced anti-aircraft missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

If the alleged arms shipment is confirmed, it would be a significant development that crosses Israel's repeated "red line" regarding the transfer of advanced air defense systems to Hezbollah.

The convoy was carrying SA-17 "Grizzly" mobile medium-range anti-aircraft missiles, according to the Associated Press, which quoted Israeli and US officials. The location of the attack remained unclear, although reports said it occurred on Syrian territory close to the border with Lebanon.

Since 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war, the Lebanese group has steadily expanded its arsenal, both in size and capabilities, in preparation for a possible conflict with the Jewish state.

The Lebanese Army acknowledged in a statement that three waves of Israeli aircraft violated Lebanese airspace between 4:30 p.m. yesterday and 7:55 a.m. today. Israeli jets and reconnaissance drones stage flyovers above Lebanon on a near daily basis -- the white contrails made by the passing aircraft are a common sight on clear days -- but a Western diplomat said that there had been a "substantially unusual and very high level of air activity in the past two days."

Lebanese security sources denied all knowledge of an airstrike along the border and there were no reports in Lebanese media this morning of any such incident.
Posted by:tipper

#19  Not even close, Robert
Posted by: Frank G   2013-01-30 22:16  

#18  In fact, the Christians and the Shiites in Lebanon have every reason to like Assad for slaughtering the Sunnis who have oppressed them for a thousand years. Identity politics doesn't have much purchase stateside, but it's a fact of life overseas. In the modern context, Sunni rule has almost universally been oppressive, with religious minorities being made to deal with all kinds of humiliations, big and small.

If Assad moves into Lebanon, the country immediately acquires an air force and air defenses able to deter the routine and humiliating Israeli incursions into the country's airspace. I think that's the only reason that makes sense. Why would Assad move his air defense equipment to Lebanon when he needs it to deter Western intervention? He must be retreating to Lebanon.
Posted by: Zhang Fei   2013-01-30 20:47  

#17  Not if they've got one functioning brain cell amongst the lot of them.

The alternative may be conquest by the jihadists about to take power in Syria. Assad can bring the Syrian treasury and all of Syria's heavy equipment and ammo dumps with him. Ultimately, Lebanon is in the cross hairs if the Syrian rebels win. They can't attack Israel, but Lebanon is definitely within reach. Syrians did it once under Hafez al Assad and they can do it again.

Ultimately, the casualties in Syria (about 60K) are small potatoes compared to the Lebanese civil war, which killed 150K people. Since Syria has 5x Lebanon's population, the equivalent body count in Syria would be 750K dead.
Posted by: Zhang Fei   2013-01-30 20:38  

#16  "The question is whether Lebanon's Christians and Shiites will want Assad as king."

Not if they've got one functioning brain cell amongst the lot of them.
Posted by: Barbara   2013-01-30 20:29  

#15  Zhang: northwest Syria is an Alawite majority region. Pencilneck could make his last stand there.

Assad's problem is manpower. He doesn't have enough of it. That's what he gets in Lebanon. Wouldn't be the first time a king left his country and was crowned elsewhere. Lebanon is attractive because it's got a lot of infrastructure and 3x the GDP per capita of Syria. The question is whether Lebanon's Christians and Shiites will want Assad as king.
Posted by: Zhang Fei   2013-01-30 19:20  

#14  Joseph ... agree with you. Iran is on record as stating they will take action. They can't ignore what just happened in the last 24 hours.

You know - the perpetrators who killed the Israeli tourists in Bulgaria were never caught. Which means that there's a hit team out there in Europe that is still active. Of course, they may no longer be located in Europe. But they could be activated to hit again - somewhere.
Posted by: Raider   2013-01-30 18:48  

#13  I agree wid #10 as per Hezbollah, + also der Quddies - Iran must know that iff they respond militarily Israel firstly will strike back wid something harder, + perhaps more importantly all gloves will be off in the ME to which by most accounts Iran + Armed Forces are NOT ready for at this time. Iran will only be giving Israel + IDF an excuse to attack, invade Lebanon + Syria.

The fact remains, however, that by this action Israel has effec called Iran's bluff - its now up to wannabe Rising Iran to put its money = credibility where its mouth is.
Posted by: JosephMendiola   2013-01-30 18:31  

#12  The rebels are on the outskirts of Latakia. The window for creating an alawite state along the coast is closing.

Assad would have to abandon Damascus and transfer his forces to the coast, and there is no sign of him doing so.
Posted by: phil_b   2013-01-30 18:30  

#11  Or they might unveil their Ultimate Weapon (drum roll please).... Green Helmet Guy!
Posted by: CrazyFool   2013-01-30 18:17  

#10  Hezbollah will hit back .. but possibly at Israeli assets outside of Israel. The Sudanese still haven't taken revenge for the Israeli bombing raid inside their country. I wouldn't be surprised if Hezbollah and Sudan form a joint operation - maybe something in the Sinai, or an Israeli embassy in places like Ethiopia, Kenya, or Tanzania.
Posted by: Raider   2013-01-30 18:08  

#9  Odd how they fail to mention that one of the conditions for Israel to stop kicking the living sh*t out of the Hezbo's back in '06 was that the arms shipments would stop.
Posted by: CrazyFool   2013-01-30 17:36  

#8  Zhang: northwest Syria is an Alawite majority region. Pencilneck could make his last stand there. It would have the advantage of sea access so that the Iranians and Russians could supply his forces.
Posted by: Steve White   2013-01-30 16:25  

#7  Barry Rubin weighs in.
Posted by: trailing wife   2013-01-30 16:10  

Syria: Israeli jets strike Jamaraya arms depot near Damascus leaving casualties
Posted by: tipper   2013-01-30 16:08  

#5  The strike actually works in Assad's favour. He's rid of the shipment; can't be blamed for proliferation; and can instantly blame the Jews. Note the apparent lack of Russian advisor casualties.
Posted by: Besoeker   2013-01-30 15:57  

#4  from my point of view ... Assad is almost out of the game. The question is - what do the other players in the Syrian conflict do now that Israel has struck? Granted, Israel's actions are not really all that inflammatory ... since they have only struck pinpoint targets. It's more that the Israeli action provides a catalyst to the next steps in the Syrian War.

So the questions is - how do the Iranians respond through their Al Quds operations? How do the Russians respond? And who - if anyone - still has any ownership in the "piecemeal mess" that used to be called Syria???
Posted by: Raider   2013-01-30 15:45  

#3  If he's doing that, he may in fact be on the verge of losing power. Ultimately, the Alawites may end up withdrawing to Lebanon, where a Shiite majority already exists, and an experienced force of Hezbollah fighters is available to fend off a Sunni invasion force from Syria, which will occur because Syria has, since inception, considered Lebanon to be a part of Syria. I expect Assad to move his air assets to Lebanon before a collapse in Syria.
Posted by: Zhang Fei   2013-01-30 15:38  

#2  Update 2
Syria confirms Israel bombed site near Damascus
Posted by: tipper   2013-01-30 15:29  

#1  Update
Israel said to have attacked Syrian weapons transport
Posted by: tipper   2013-01-30 15:27