Likud lawmaker and Netanyahu confidant Tzachi Hanegbi told the Israeli news site Ynet that a Syrian retaliation “was deemed to be a long shot.”
The real wild card might be Iran, where officials previously warned, following a similar Israeli attack in January, that any strike against Syria would be viewed as an strike against Iran.
“The bombing of Syria is really more of a test of Iran than Assad,’’ said Moshe Maoz, a Hebrew University professor and Syria expert. “Israel is testing the patience and strategy of Iran and wants to see Iran’s reaction, which might help if Israel attacks Iran itself one day.”
Israel, with the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons arsenal, has threatened to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent the Islamic republic from building its own nuclear bomb.
Syria’s unrest is providing both Israel and Iran with an opportunity to advance their interests amid the chaos, analysts say.
Hezbollah and Iran see an opportunity to accelerate the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Lebanon, particularly as Assad’s survival appears uncertain.
Israel would like to break the long-standing weapons pipeline from Iran through Syria, which enabled Hezbollah to rearm itself after its 2006 war with Israel.
“Israel is entering the scene to engage in damage control,” said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
He called Israel’s attack a preemptive strategy. “Sitting on the fence for any length of time will result in equipping potential enemies with dangerous weapons,” he said.
Batsheva Sobelman in The Times’ Jerusalem Bureau contributed to this report.