Report: Syria arming Hezbollah from secret bases
British Times reports satellite images reveal Shiite organization 'allowed to operate freely' at secret compound in Syrian town of Adra, from which missiles are sent to Lebanon. Intelligence sources say ongoing smuggling increases chances of Israeli strike
The chances that Israel may send a "calibrated signal" to Hezbollah and Syria by launching a precise airstrike against a weapons convoy are increasing, the British Times reported on Friday, following reports of Israeli plans to bomb a Syrian arms convey as it crossed the border into Lebanon. The Israeli strike was reportedly called off at the last minute.
Friday's report covered tensions in the region, and citied satellite images of secret arms depots in Syria, in which surface-to-surface missiles destined for Hezbollah are stored.
According to the report, the Times has been shown images of one such site, located in a compound near the town of Adra, northeast of Damascus. The site reportedly includes living quarters for Hezbollah fighters, arms sheds and a fleet of trucks used for transferring weapons. The facility is believed to be one of several used as a base for weapons deliveries.
“Hezbollah is allowed to operate this site freely,” a security source told the paper. “They often move the arms in bad weather when Israeli satellites are unable to track them.” The weapons in question are either of Syrian origin, or are delivered from Iran by sea or by air.
It was recently reported that Syria transferred Scud missiles to the Shiite organization. The Times report claims that only two missiles were transferred, which American and Israeli intelligence sources believe have been stored in underground bunkers in the Bekaa Valley.
In light of the tight surveillance, one source said that Hezbollah may be considering returning the missiles.
Earlier this month, Yossi Baidatz, head of the Israeli Military Intelligence research department, said the recent transfer of arms to Hezbollah was just the "tip of the iceberg," and the Times reported that the M-600 missiles Hezbollah posses grant the organization unprecedented accuracy that threatens strategic facilities inside Israel.
Syrian diplomat: Our bases nobody's business
After the Israeli strike on one of the arms convoys was called off, reportedly around the time of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah's visit to Damascus along with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israel depended on American diplomatic efforts to put an end to the deliveries.
But according to Western intelligence sources, the failure of these efforts increase the chances of a targeted Israeli attack against a weapons warehouse or delivery.
John Kerry, head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Damascus several times in recent months, and reportedly urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to halt the flow or weapons to Lebanon.
Assad denied the allegations, and Western officials privately said the Syrian president is "flat out lying" about the weapons transfer to Hezbollah.
The Syrians insist that all their bases are exclusive to the Syrian military. Jihad Makdissi, the spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London said, “Syria and Israel remain in a state of war as long as Israel refuses to implement UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolutions to end the occupation of Arab lands; therefore if these military depots really exist it would be for the exclusive use of the Syrian Army to defend Syrian soil, and it is definitely nobody’s business,” he said.