Explosions in Syria tonight are being read against the backdrop of ongoing deterioration in the region, with Damascus publicly blaming Israel for what appear to be a second round of air strikes against advanced Syrian weaponry and military infrastructure.
Preventing Hezbollah or al Qaeda from laying their hands on chemical weapons or advanced weapons, including those capable of delivering both conventional and chemical warheads, is a key redline for Israel, and one President Obama made clear today that the United States completely supports. “What I have said in the past and I continue to believe,” Obama told his Telemundo interviewer, “is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah,” which has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization except Al Qaeda, which is also on the loose in Syria.
Videos of fireballs erupting on Mount Qassioun, a hill near Damascus where the Syrian army has significant weaponry, were posted to the Internet on video channels known to be opposed to the Bashar al-Assad regime. Three are embedded below. Rebels had initially claimed credit for the blast, but mortars available to opposition groups are unlikely to have triggered the explosions.
These come in the aftermath of an unnamed military official confirming on background that Israel had on Friday carried out an attack against advanced Syrian missiles bound for Hezbollah. The Government of Israel has so far not confirmed or denied Israel’s role in the stikes on military targets inside Syria. In January, Jerusalem struck a convoy of advanced weapons that the embattled Assad regime was transferring to the Iran-backed terror army.
Syrian state TV this weekend explicitly and repeately linked the newest round of explosions to Israel. Broadcasts were accompanied by what the Washington Post describes as “martial music and footage of Syrian soldiers marching, descending from helicopters and firing rockets.” There had been extensive analysis to the effect that Damascus might avoid blaming Israel for attacks on Syrian infrastructure, after Syrian officials initially and pointedly declined to confirm any activity linked to Israel.
The concern now is that Damascus is intentionally creating a scenario under which the Syrian army will be forced to escalate the conflict.
Israeli officials have been unequivocal that they will not allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons to terrorists. President Barack Obama has emphasized that the U.S. also views such transfers as a red line.