Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu opened Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting with a response to a report in the London-based Sunday Times that Syrian President Bashar Assad is preparing to use missiles against Tel Aviv if Israel strikes Damascus.
Netanyahu countered that Israel will continue to thwart efforts by Syria to ship weapons to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. "Our policies are to stop, as much as possible, any leaks of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. We will continue to act to ensure the security interests of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said.
The Sunday Times report describes preparations made by the Syrian army to deploy surface-to-surface Tishreen missiles and cites comments by Israeli defense analyst Uzi Rubin, who warned that the missiles, if fired, could essentially shut down commercial airline traffic to and from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
It is widely believed Israel launched a highly effective overnight air raid two weeks ago near Damascus, targeting a military research center and an advanced weapons site near the Damacus airport, which may have housed weapons destined for Hezbollah.
Israel was also likely behind an an attack on a chemical weapons plant in Syria in February. Israel does not comment publicly on such military actions, but its leaders have repeatedly stated they will not allow unconventional weapons, including chemical and nuclear, to fall into the hands of terrorist groups.
At the same time, Russia may be supplying Assad with the S-300 anti-missile system, a sophisticated air defense program that could complicate future Israeli strikes.
The Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar quotes Assad as saying Syria intends to follow Hezbollah's model of conflict against Israel.
"We want strategic revenge, by opening the door of resistance and turning the entire Syria into a resistance nation," Assad warned.