Chemical weapons inspection team are checked in upon their arrival at The Hague, Netherlands, in August 2013. An official at the global chemical weapons watchdog says Syria has completed destruction of critical equipment for producing chemical weapons and filling munitions with poison gas. (Henry Arvidsson / AP)
Beirutó Israeli warplanes attacked a shipment of Russian missiles inside a Syrian government stronghold, officials said Thursday, a development that threatened to add another volatile layer to regional tensions from the Syrian civil war.
The revelation came as the government of President Bashar Assad met a key deadline in an ambitious plan to eliminate Syriaís entire chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014 and avoid international military action.
The announcement by a global chemical weapons watchdog that the country has completed the destruction of equipment used to produce the deadly agents highlights Assadís willingness to cooperate, and puts more pressure on the divided and outgunned rebels to attend a planned peace conference.
An Obama administration official confirmed the Israeli airstrike overnight, but provided no details. Another security official said the attack occurred late Wednesday in the Syrian port city of Latakia and that the target was Russian-made SA-125 missiles.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the attack. There was no immediate confirmation from Syria.
Since the civil war in Syria began in March 2011, Israel has carefully avoided taking sides, but has struck shipments of missiles inside Syria at least twice this year.
The Syrian military, overstretched by the civil war, has not retaliated, and it was not clear whether the embattled Syrian leader would choose to take action this time.