January 2013 Rif Dimashq airstrike
||This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (May 2013)|
|January 2013 Rif Dimashq airstrike|
|Part of Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War|
Rif Dimashq Governorate in Syria (red)
|Objective||Destroy a weapons convoy carrying Soviet/Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah|
|Date||31 January 2013|
|Executed by||Alleged Israeli Air Force involvement|
|Outcome||Destruction of anti-aircraft missiles destined for Hezbollah and collateral damage to nearby research center on biological and chemical weapons|
|Casualties||2 people killed (official Syrian report)|
The January 2013 Rif Dimashq airstrike was an aerial attack in the Rif Dimashq Governorate of Syria, made on a convoy, that was believed to be carrying advanced anti-aircraft weaponry from Syria to the Lebanese Shi'a militia Hezbollah. The convoy was attacked on 31 January 2013. According to several media sources, Israeli forces allegedly conducted the strike, however Israel hasn't officially responded to the allegations.
The convoy was attacked while parked at a facility of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, Syria's main research center on biological and chemical weapons, at Jamraya, several miles northwest of the Syrian capital of Damascus. In addition to Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, secondary explosions from the attacked munitions also damaged a building of the Scientific Studies and Research Center. Satellite images taken a few days after the attack showed a scorched and blackened parking lot at the center, where the arms convoy was apparently hit.
Israel did not officially confirm responsibility for the bombing, but Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that it could have been behind the attack, saying on 3 February, "I cannot add anything to what you've read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago, but I keep telling, frankly, that we've said – and that's another proof that when we say something we mean it – we say that we don't think that it should be allowable to bring advanced weapon systems into Lebanon."
The attack on January 2013 was reportedly part of Israel's efforts to stem the flow of sophisticated weapons from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'a Islamic militant group and political party that is designated a terrorist organization by some countries. Israel's newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to have notified the United States and Russia of the impending attack a few days beforehand.
The attack came three weeks after the reported interception of a vessel carrying anti-aircraft missiles and munitions for Hezbollah by the Israeli Navy. The vessel was reportedly stopped in the Red Sea, and its crew of four was arrested.
Despite the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 from 2006 which called for an embargo on arms shipments to Lebanon, Hezbollah has reportedly continued to arm itself with assistance from Iran and Syria. Those weapons include, according to reports, Scud D surface-to-surface missiles originating in North Korea, with a range of 700 kilometres (430 mi).
The attack consisted of about ten jets, flying from the Mediterranean over southern Lebanon. The jets were tracked by both NATO and Lebanese radars. An early report said some planes crossed into Syria, fired eight missiles at their target, and then flew back over the Mediterranean. It was later reported that the warplanes did not enter Syrian airspace, but launched the attack from Lebanese airspace.
Hussam Hush Nawis (also known as Hassan Shateri), a senior commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, was supervising a shipment of weapons and rockets to Lebanon and was killed in the airstrike, according to a Free Syrian Army spokesman. Several of his aides were also killed, but their deaths were not reported due to "the consequences" of such a disclosure.
Syria maintained that Israel had bombed a "scientific research center" at Jamraya, several miles northwest of Damascus, and Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon said Syria had the option of retaliating against Israel. According to a security analyst, Amir Rapaport, footage broadcast on Syrian television showed a damaged armored vehicle that seemed to belong to the SA-8 missile system. He speculated that the vehicle may have been placed on the scene after the attack, because Syria had guaranteed the Russians not to transfer the more advanced SA-17 system to Lebanon.
- Israel: Boaz Ganor, director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, warned that if Syria’s weapons falls into the hands of jihadist groups like al-Qaeda, that would be a global threat.
- Russia: "If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with the unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter what the motives were to justify it."
- Iran: Minister of foreign affairs Ali Akbar Salehi condemned the alleged air strike as an "overt assault based on the West's policy" to undermine stability in Syria. "The Zionists got ahead of themselves in trying to cover up the successes of the Syrian government and nation in maintaining the existing government and restoring stability and security". Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said the raid would have "grave consequences for Tel Aviv".
Additional air strikes in Rif Dimashq in Syria reportedly took place on 3 and 5 May 2013. According to Jerusalem Post, the attacks targeted accurate short-range Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles destined for Hezbollah from Iran. Israeli politician Tzachi Hanegbi made a statement to Israel Radio that if any raids were made, those were "only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime" without explicitly admitting Israel made the strikes. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that rebel forces claimed that other targets were destroyed during the strike on the airbase, including fuel and ammunition depots and a cargo plane that had arrived from Iran.
However, according to Abdulkader Saleh, a commander in the Free Syrian Army, opposition forces were about to receive a transfer of weapons with the help of several pro-rebel high ranking Syrian officials when Israel attacked to prevent this from occurring. Saleh stated: "This assault, of course, was intended to support the Assad administration".
According to anonymous US officials, Israel allegedly launched another airstrike on 5 July 2013. It targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the city of Latakia, and killed several Syrian troops. Hezbollah's Al-Manar claimed that the explosions were caused by "stray mortars" from "local clashes."
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