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Israel hints of airstrike role

Syria raid seen as backing up threat

Barak

– Israel’s defense minister strongly signaled Sunday that his country was behind an airstrike in Syria last week, telling a high-profile security conference that Israeli threats to take pre-emptive action against its enemies are not empty. “We mean it,” Ehud Barak declared.

Israel has not officially confirmed its planes attacked a site near Damascus, targeting ground-to-air missiles apparently heading for Lebanon, but its intentions have been beyond dispute. During the 22 months of civil war in Syria, Israeli leaders have repeatedly expressed concern that high-end weapons could fall into the hands of enemy Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militants.

For years, Israel has been charging that Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iran have been arming Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006.

U.S. officials say the target was a convoy of sophisticated Russian SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles.

Over the weekend, Syrian TV broadcast video of the Wednesday attack site for the first time, showing destroyed vehicles and a damaged building identified as a scientific research center. The U.S. officials said the airstrike hit both the building and the convoy.

Turkey, which seeks the ouster of Assad and supports the opposition that is fighting against his regime, harshly criticized Israel regarding the airstrike in Syria.

In his comments Sunday in Munich, Barak came close to confirming that his country was behind the airstrike.

“I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago,” Barak told the gathering of top diplomats and defense officials from around the world.

Then he went on to say, “I keep telling frankly that we said – and that’s proof when we said something we mean it – we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”

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