Obama: Israel Justified in Stopping Weapons Transfer
Israel is justified in protecting itself from advanced weapons shipments to Lebanon-based militant group Hizbullah, United States President Barack Obama said Saturday, the AFP news agency reports. Obama spoke following reports that Israel had bombed a weapons shipment bound for Hizbullah.
Obama joined Israeli officials in declining to comment on the reported strike, saying he would let Israel "confirm or deny whatever strikes they have taken."
"What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hizbullah," the president told Spanish-language Telemundo television during a trip to Mexico and Central America.
"We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognizing that they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon."
Israel and Hizbullah, a faithful ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fought a war in the summer of 2006. UN Resolution 1701, negotiated by then foreign minister MK Tzippy Livni (Hatnua), put an end to the conflict and was intended to end arms shipments to Hizbullah. However, the terrorist organization has stockpiled 60,000 missiles since then.
United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon recently warned that Hizbullah is replacing the Lebanese army in the region, in violation of its ceasefire deal with Israel.
CNN television said US and Western intelligence agencies were reviewing information suggesting Israel conducted a strike overnight from Thursday to Friday.
A diplomatic source in Lebanon told AFP the operation destroyed surface-to-air missiles recently delivered by Russia that were being stored at Damascus airport. The New York Times reports that the weapons were sent by Iran.
Lebanon's army said pairs of Israeli airplanes entered Lebanese airspace three times overnight.
US media reported that Washington does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.
A senior US official told NBC News that the air strikes were probably tied to delivery systems for chemical weapons.