January 30, 2013 ""
The Syrian army said an Israeli airstrike targeted a military research center near Damascus.
By Al Jazeera"
"Israeli fighter jets violated our air space at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defence," the army's general command said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
Earlier on Wednesday, reports emerged that Israel had conducted an airstrike inside Syria near the border with Lebanon, hitting a convoy of trucks, US and regional officials said.
"The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon," said one Western diplomat on Wednesday.
A source among rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said an air strike around dawn (0430 GMT) on Wednesday blasted a convoy on a mountain track about 5 kilometres south of where the main Damascus-Beirut highway crosses the border.
The regional officials said Israel had been planning in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
They said the shipment included sophisticated, Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which would be strategically "game-changing" in the hands of Hezbollah.
A US official confirmed the overnight strike hitting a convoy of trucks.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the strike.
The Israeli military declined to comment, and Syrian officials and state media were silent on the issue.
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said that there has yet to be any word from the Syrian government, despite the press reports circulating.
"It also shows the Israelis are very concerned that Syria's weapons could fall into the hands of either Hezbollah, or groups like Al Qaeda," she said.
US officials say they are tracking Syria's chemical weapons and that they still appear to be solidly under regime control.
Among Israeli security officials' chief fears is that Hezbollah could get its hands on Syrian chemical arms and SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles.
If that were to happen, it would change the balance of power in the region and greatly hinder Israel's ability to conduct air violations in Lebanon.
Earlier this week, Israel moved a battery of its new "Iron Dome" rocket defense system to the northern city of Haifa, which was battered by Hezbollah rocket fire in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.
The Israeli army called that move "routine."
The military in Lebanon, which shares borders with both Israel and Syria, said on Wednesday that Israeli warplanes have sharply increased their activity over Lebanon in the past week, including at least 12 sorties in less than 24 hours in the country's south.
A senior Lebanese security official said there were no Israeli airstrikes inside Lebanese territory. Asked whether it could have been along the border on the Syrian side, he said that that could not be confirmed as it was out of his area of operations.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A Lebanese army statement said the last of the airspace violations took place at 2 am local time on Wednesday. It said four warplanes which flew in over the southernmost coastal town of Naqoura hovered for several hours over villages in southern Lebanon before leaving Lebanese airspace.
It said similar flights by eight other warplanes were conducted on Tuesday.
A Lebanese security official said the flights were part of "increased activity" in the past week but did not elaborate. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The area of Lebanon where the flights took place borders southern Syria.
Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace occur on a daily basis and Lebanese authorities routinely lodge complaints at the UN against the flights.