Jerusalem: Israel said it would not allow advanced weapons to fall into the hands of Hezbollah, after a raid on Syria that opposition sources said had hit an Air Force garrison believed to be holding Russian-made missiles destined for the militant group.
Israel has a clear policy on Syria and will continue to enforce it, officials said on Friday, after US and European sources said Israel had launched a new attack on its warring neighbour.
Israel declined to comment on leaks to US media that its planes had hit a Syrian base near the port of Latakia, targeting missiles that it thought were destined for its Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah.
"We have said many times that we will not allow the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah," said Home Front Defence Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the inner security Cabinet which met hours before the alleged Israeli attack.
"We are sticking to this policy and I say so without denying or confirming this report," he told Israel Radio.
Israel is believed to have attacked targets in Syria on at least four occasions this year, the last time in July, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he would not let sophisticated anti-aircraft, anti-ship and long-range missiles move from the hands of Syria to its Hezbollah ally.
One US official and two European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel was understood to have carried out the latest air strike on Wednesday.
The officials did not identify the target in Syria, but the US official and one of the European officials noted that in the past such Israeli operations have destroyed missiles to prevent their transfer to Hezbollah.
A Latakia activist told a news agency that an explosion had rocked a garrison area that houses an Air Force brigade loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad near Snobar Jableh village mid-afternoon on October 30.
Ambulance sirens were heard rushing to the scene, however, the activist, who calls himself Khaled, said there was a "total media blackout" about the incident.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted sources as saying there were four or five explosions at the base, but only limited damage reported. Al-Arabiya news network said SAM 8 anti-aircraft missiles were destroyed.
Former Syrian intelligence agent Afaq Ahmad, a defector now in exile in France, told a news agency on Thursday that contacts of his inside Syria, including in Latakia province, told him Russian-made ballistic missiles had been kept at the site that was attacked.
Assad`s forces, backed by Hezbollah and Iran, are battling rebels in a civil war that has killed well over 100,000.
Khaled said Assad loyalists were frustrated about Israel`s apparent impunity, recalling that the Syrian President had previously indicated Syria would respond to further attacks.
"Yet Israel keeps hitting us and there`s no retaliation. So even the staunchest loyalists are getting very upset," he said.