By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
An anonymous Obama administration official has confirmed that Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian air defense base near the port city of Latakia on Thursday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that there had been an explosion at the base, but the Israeli government hasn’t taken public responsibility for the action.
Israel’s motivation for taking out the missiles and other related equipment stockpiled at the base by Syrian government forces, likely has to do with preventing the Lebanon terrorist group Hezbollah from receiving them. Hezbollah has allied itself with the Syrian government during the civil war with rebel forces, and has a long history of attacking Israel.
This action takes place just as President Bashar al-Assad met a key deadline for the chemical weapons removal agreed upon by a US-Russia deal to avoid a US-led strike on the country. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for its actions in removing chemical weapons worldwide, has until November 15 to decide how to permanently destroy Syria’s toxic mustard gas, sarin, and other deadly chemicals.
Israel’s attack may increase tensions in the region, but this is not the first time they have taken direct military action in Syria during the recent conflict. Foreign officials say that Israel has taken military action against Syrian targets whenever its intelligence agents determine that dangerous missiles are on the move. For instance, in January, an Israeli airstrike took out a shipment of advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles before they could reach Hezbollah. In May, reports stated that Israel took out a shipment of Iranian-made missiles at an airport in Damascus.
Image of seized weapons courtesy of Israel Defense Forces on Flickr.