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Watch out Hezbollah. Further Israeli air attacks on Syria seem increasingly likely

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An attack by Israeli warplanes into Syria airspace for selective bombing raids this week may be a sign of things to come. Israeli military officials have concluded that attacking Syria, with its attendant risks is necessary considering the dangers of its sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Israeli officials fear Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could soon lose control over his substantial arsenal of chemical and advanced weapons. In a possible power vacuum, these weapons could fall into the hands of hostile groups. Combined with Hezbollah's own domestic problems, this means that further military action is highly likely.

"Israel finds itself, like it has many times in the past, facing a dilemma that only it knows how to respond to. And it could well be that we will reach a stage where we will have to make decisions," Tzachi Hanegbi, an incoming lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party said.

Hanegbi, speaking to Israel's Army Radio, would not confirm Israeli involvement in the airstrike.

Israeli warplanes conducted a rare airstrike inside Syria this week. U.S. officials said the target was a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran.

The Syrian military has denied the existence of any weapons shipment and said a military research facility outside Damascus was hit.

Syria has threatened to retaliate. In the meantime, Hezbollah condemned the attack as "barbaric aggression." Iran, which supplies arms to Syria, Hezbollah and the Hamas militant group in Gaza, said the airstrike would have significant implications for Israel. In addition, Syrian ally Russia said it appeared to be an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.

In a word of caution, it was noted that Damascus "has the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation," Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali said.

Israeli officials currently seem to be playing down the threats. "Israel took a big gamble out of the belief that Iran and Hezbollah won't retaliate. The question is, `Are they right or not?'" Moshe Maoz, a professor emeritus at Hebrew University who specializes in Syria said.

Officials now believe that Assad's position in Syria is so precarious that he cannot risk opening a new front with Israel. With an estimated 60,000 Syrians killed in the civil war, Israeli officials also think it's too late for Assad to rally his bitterly divided nation behind him.

"Syria is in such a bad state right now that an Israeli retaliation to a Syrian action would be harsh and could topple the regime. Therefore Syria is not responding," Maoz said.

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