L.A. Now
Live updates: Tour bus collides with big rig in fatal crash in Desert Hot Springs

Israeli planes strike targets in Syria, Arab media report

Israel jets reportedly hit Syrian brigades said to keep long-range missiles and other strategic weaponry

Israeli warplanes struck military targets in Syria early Saturday, according to media reports that were not confirmed by Israeli or Syrian officials.

According to Arab media and pro-opposition sources in Syria, the strikes targeted several bases belonging to Syrian missile brigades in the mountainous Qalamoun region near the Syrian-Lebanese border.

The targets reportedly were Syrian army brigades said to keep long-range missiles and other strategic weaponry.  

Syrian pro-opposition sources uploaded a video to YouTube depicting columns of smoke rising from what was said to be the base of a Syrian army brigade, one of many bases and other military installations in the Qalamoun area.

SANA, Syria’s official news agency, did not acknowledge the attack but several pro-government outlets reported explosions in the town of Qateyfah. It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the strike, and conflicting versions of events were heard among the warring factions in Syria.

Hezbollah officials, contacted by phone in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, had no comment.

Also Saturday, reports emerged on the Al Arabiya TV news channel that Israeli aircraft had carried out two strikes Wednesday against Hezbollah targets in the same area; one alleged target was a large weapons convoy headed for the Lebanon-based Shiite militia heavily engaged in fighting alongside Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime against rebel forces. Unconfirmed reports claimed three people were killed in Wednesday’s attack.

Saturday’s strike was the latest of at least seven strikes thought to have been carried out by Israeli forces in Syria in the last two years. Israel’s military declined to comment on the reported strike.

Officially, Israel’s declared position is that it is not involved in the civil war in Syria. However, officials have repeatedly marked "red lines" warranting action, including transfer of strategic weapons to Hezbollah or other actors in the region.  

The latest strike comes shortly after Russia renewed its pledge to supply Iran with the advanced S300 air defense system, which Israel views as tie-breaking strategic weaponry that could hamper its capabilities throughout the region.

Saturday’s strike also follows a report in Jane's Defense Weekly that revealed an airstrip in the northern Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah’s stronghold in Lebanon, believed to be used by the powerful militia for its drone operations.

In January, an airstrike attributed to Israel killed several Hezbollah members as well as an Iranian general in an attack in the Quneitra area of the Golan Heights.

The high-profile strike was followed by an attack that killed two Israeli soldiers as well as a Spanish peacekeeper killed by retaliatory fire from Israel.

Sobelman is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Nabih Bulos in Beirut contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times