Beirut: Israeli warplanes flew over southern Lebanon on Friday, two days after an airstrike near Damascus, as Syria`s army chief of staff warned against testing his country`s capabilities.
Gen Ali Abdullah Ayoub made his comments yesterday during a visit to some military units in the country. The Al-Baath newspaper, the mouthpiece of President Bashar Assad`s ruling party, quoted Ayoub as saying Syria will never change its stance "no matter how much the enemy carries out provocative and hostile acts."
The latest overflights came after officials said Israel launched a rare airstrike Wednesday inside Syria, targeting a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran.
The general`s comments reflected increased tensions between Syria and Israel, which up to now has refrained from actions that could be interpreted as intervention in Syria`s civil war.
Israel had no comment on Lebanon`s description of its air force flights over the border region today. There were no reports of airstrikes. Israeli planes frequently overfly south Lebanon, and Lebanon often files complaints with the UN over the incursions into its airspace.
According to a US official, the Israeli airstrikes Wednesday targeted trucks containing SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The trucks were next to the research center the Syrians identified, and the strikes hit both the trucks and the facility.
Advanced anti-aircraft missiles like the SA-17 in the hands of Hezbollah could change the strategic equation, which so far has allowed Israel to send warplanes over Lebanon practically unopposed.
The Syrian military denied that the target of the attack was a weapons convoy. It said low-flying Israeli jets crossed into the country over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and bombed a scientific research center.
The facility is in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Lebanese.
The air raid raised tension in the already boiling region as a result of Syria`s 22-month civil war that has left more than 60,000 people dead, according to the UN Many fear Syria`s civil war could spill to neighboring countries.
Syria and its close ally Iran threatened retaliation, and Arab nations along with Russia condemned the raid.
In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on Israeli media reports that its embassies were instructed to be alert of threats after Syria`s warnings. Syrian-allied Hezbollah has been accused of staging deadly attacks against Israelis abroad in past years.