FILE – In this Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 file photo, an Israeli Iron Dome missile is launched near the city of Be’er Sheva, southern Israel, to intercept a rocket fired from Gaza. Israel’s military has deployed Iron Dome defense system to the north of the country on Sunday May 5, 2013 following Israeli airstrikes in neighboring Syria targeting weapons believed to be destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants. Iron Dome protects against short-range rockets and Hezbollah has thousands of such projectiles. (AP Photo/Ahikam Seri, File)
BEIRUT (AP) — Israel rushed to beef up its rocket defenses on its northern border Sunday to shield against possible retaliation after carrying out two airstrikes in Syria over 48 hours — an unprecedented escalation of Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Syria and its patron Iran hinted at possible retribution, though the rhetoric in official statements appeared relatively muted.
Despite new concerns about a regional war, Israeli officials signaled they will keep trying to block what they see as an effort by Iran to send sophisticated weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia ahead of a possible collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to intervene in the Syrian civil war to stop the transfer of what it calls “game-changing” weapons to Hezbollah, a Syrian-backed group that battled Israel to a stalemate during a monthlong war in 2006.
Since carrying out a lone airstrike in January that reportedly destroyed a shipment of anti-aircraft missiles headed to Hezbollah, Israel had largely stayed on the sidelines. That changed over the weekend with a pair of airstrikes, including an attack near a sprawling military complex close to the Syrian capital of Damascus early Sunday that set off a series of powerful explosions.
The Israeli government and military refused to comment. But a senior Israeli official said both airstrikes targeted shipments of Fateh-110 missiles bound for Hezbollah. The Iranian-made guided missiles can fly deep into Israel and deliver powerful half-ton Login to read more