The Syrian statement said the Israeli attack followed months of “botched attempts” to seize control of the facility by “terrorist groups” – the regime’s label for rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad. The Israeli pilots are said to have flown into Syria at low altitude to evade detection.
Hours later, Israeli and Western media carried reports of an Israeli airstrike at a different location – near Syria’s border with Lebanon – against a convoy said to be delivering missile parts to Hezbollah, the strongly anti-Israel Shi’ite militia based in Lebanon.
Neither attack could be independently verified by late Wednesday, and Israeli authorities refused to comment on the reports.
Israel has warned in recent weeks that it will not tolerate any transfer of Syrian weapons to militants such as Hezbollah, as Syria’s civil war rages and the Assad government’s control over the country weakens.
The former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Amnon Sofin, says Israel’s greatest concern is that Syrian chemical weapons could come under control of Hezbollah militants dug in along the Lebanese border.
Sofin told reporters Wednesday that Hezbollah already has missiles and launchers, and there are fears that such rockets could be fitted to carry chemical warheads.