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Israeli warplanes strike Syria in escalation

Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, officials and activists said.

The attack, the second in three days and the third this year, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near Damascus and caused casualties.

Syria’s government called the attacks against against its territory a ‘flagrant violation of international law’ that have made the Middle East ‘more dangerous.’

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi, who read a Cabinet statement to reporters Sunday in Damascus following an emergency government meeting, claimed the Israeli strikes are evidence of the Jewish state’s links with Islamic extremist groups trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s regime.

He added that Syria has the right and the duty ‘to defend its people by all available means.’

While the government tried to use the air-strikes to taint the rebels by linking them to Israel, Syria’s arch rival, the attacks still pose a dilemma for an Assad regime already battling a relentless rebellion at home. If it fails to respond, it looks weak and opens the door to such air-strikes becoming a common occurrence. But any military retaliation against Israel would risk dragging the Jewish state and its powerful army into a broader conflict.

The tempo of the new strikes added a dangerous dynamic to the conflict, fueling concerns that events could spin out of control and spark a regional crisis.

Israel’s military on Sunday deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the north of the country. It described the move as part of ‘ongoing situational assessments.’

A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an air-strike in the Syrian capital early Sunday. Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, condemned the air-strikes, with a possible retaliation from Hezbollah on cards.
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