DAMASCUS: Israel has reportedly carried out an air strike on a Syrian military installation to stop a shipment to Hezbollah, as inspectors said Syria’s entire declared stock of chemical weapons has been placed under seal.
Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) that Israel had hit a Syrian air base in Latakia province, targeting a shipment of surface-to-surface missiles destined for the Lebanese Shiite movement.
A United States (US) official confirmed that “there was an Israeli strike” but gave no details on the location or the target, while Israeli officials refused to comment.
“Historically, targets have been missiles transferred to Hezbollah,” allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the official said.
Al-Arabiya quoted the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying explosions took place on Wednesday near Latakia at an air defense base.
In May, Israel carried out two air strikes inside Syria, and a senior Israeli official said both targets were Iranian weapons destined for Hezbollah.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that all of Syria’s chemical weapons were under “tamper proof” seals.
“All stocks of chemical weapons and agents have been placed under seals that are impossible to break,” OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier said.
“These are 1,000 tons of chemical agents [which can be used to make weapons]and 290 tons of chemical weapons,” Chartier said in The Hague.
The OPCW also said Syria’s chemical arms production equipment had been destroyed.
Inspectors had until Friday to visit all the sites and destroy all production and filling equipment in accordance with a timeline laid down by the OPCW and a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The resolution, stating that the arsenal must be destroyed by mid-2014, followed a United States-Russian deal to avert military strikes on Syria after chemical weapons attacks near Damascus in August.
The West blamed those attacks, which killed hundreds, on Assad’s regime, which denied all responsibility and, in turn, blamed rebels.
The United States is “increasingly confident” the chemical arsenal will be eliminated by June 30, Thomas Countryman, a senior State Department official in charge of non-proliferation issues said.
IHS Jane’s hailed the “milestone” but cautioned that the work was far from over, noting that the entire arsenal is still under regime control.
“This is a very hurried process that has significant and real uncertainty associated with it. Only when the weapons are destroyed or removed from Syria will it be complete,” IHS Jane’s director for aerospace and defense consulting David Reeths said.