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Israel Reportedly Attacked Target In Syria In Airstrike

Israel has conducted an airstrike against a target in Syria, in an apparent attempt to keep a shipment of missiles from reaching Hezbollah, according to multiple news agencies citing Israeli and U.S. officials.

Israel has not officially confirmed reports that it carried out the attack on a target in Syria, as The Associated Press reports. But the news agency says anonymous Israeli officials have said the attack took place in the early hours of Friday.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. Details on Possible Target:

Citing Israeli officials, the AP says the attack "was aimed at sophisticated 'game-changing' weapons, but not chemical arms. One official said the target was a shipment of advanced, long-range ground-to-ground missiles but was not more specific." Reports indicate that a structure was hit. Our original post continues:

The strike occurred overnight Thursday, The New York Times reports a U.S. administration official told them. According to CNN, which first reported the news, "This is the same time frame that the U.S. collected additional data showing Israel was flying a high number of warplanes over Lebanon." But CNN's source said the U.S. could not yet confirm those planes, which reportedly did not enter Syrian airspace, conducted an airstrike.

Israeli embassy spokesman Aaron Sagui would not respond directly to the reports of an airstrike, but he reiterated Israel's overall military position in an email statement to the AP:

"What we can say is that Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, specially to Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Israel's air force attacked an anti-aircraft installation in Syria in late January. As NPR's Greg Myre wrote at the time, direct military confrontations between Israel and Syria since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war have been rare and limited:

"The last Israeli airstrike in Syria [before January] was in 2007, when Israel bombed what it believed was a secret nuclear reactor. Syria has denied that the building was a nuclear facility."

"In that 2007 attack and earlier ones, the Israelis carried out single strikes and did not wage a broader military campaign. Syria, in turn, did not respond directly to Israel but is widely seen as working through Hezbollah."

After that 2007 attack, Russia helped Syria upgrade its Soviet-era air defenses, as an AP report noted Thursday.

As NPR's Tom Bowman reports for our Newscast Desk, "Both Israeli and U.S. officials are particularly worried that Syrian missiles and chemical weapons could leak out of the country in the midst of its civil war."

Reports of an Israeli airstrike follow news that Syria's government has used chemical weapons in the conflict, which President Obama has previously called a red line for the U.S. The president is weighing his options, as NPR's Don Gonyea reported Thursday.

On Friday, Obama said he doesn't "foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground, would not only be good for America but also would be good for Syria," the AP reports. Earlier in the week, NPR's Kelly McEvers reported that the administration is considering arming the Syrian rebels.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.