x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Israel 'will keep weapons from Hizbollah', Netanyahu warns

Warning by Israel's prime minister follows airstrike in northern Syria against a shipment of advanced missiles.

JERUSALEM // Israel's prime minister insisted yesterday that he would not allow "dangerous weapons" to reach Hizbollah militants.

His words followed reports that Israel recently carried out an airstrike in northern Syria against a shipment of advanced missiles.

The airstrike in Latakia reportedly targeted Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles, one of the types of advanced weapons that Israeli officials had said they would not allow to reach Syria. It would be the fourth known airstrike against Syria this year.

Asked about the reports on the CBS-TV show Face the Nation, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, refused to confirm or deny Israeli involvement in the latest airstrike.

"My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hizbollah in Lebanon and other terror groups as well. And we stand by that policy," he said.

Israel has repeatedly said it would take action to prevent what it calls "game changing" weapons, including chemical weapons and advanced guided missiles, from reaching Hizbollah or other hostile militant groups. Syria's president, Bashar Al Assad, is a key backer of Hizbollah.

In January, Israeli aircraft destroyed what was believed to be a shipment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles in Syria that were bound for Lebanon.

In May, a pair of Israeli airstrikes near Damascus targeted Iranian ground-to-ground missiles, which were also thought to be headed for Hizbollah.

Israel has never confirmed involvement in any of the airstrikes.

Following the May attack, Mr Al Assad vowed to retaliate if Israel were to strike his territory again. He has not commented on the latest attack.