WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) - The air strike Israel carried out in Syria targeted a shipment of missiles from Iran bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The newspaper, citing a U.S. official, said the Israeli air force hit a warehouse on Friday at Damascus International Airport that it believed contained Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles made in Iran.
The Jewish state has long said it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons from reaching Lebanon's militant Shi'ite Muslim guerrillas. Israel also fears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reputed chemical weapons arsenal could end up in the hands of Hezbollah.
Assad and the powerful guerrilla group are linked to Iran, Israel's arch-enemy. Iran has increased military aid to Assad in recent months, offering Syria's increasingly isolated government support beyond what it gets from Russia, Western diplomats have said.
It was the second reported Israeli air strike on a target in Syria in four months. It took place after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security Cabinet approved it in a secret meeting on Thursday, a regional security source said.
Israel's government did not formally confirm Friday's air strike, which was disclosed to Reuters by an Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
'There was an air strike. The target was not a chemical weapons facility. It was missiles intended for Hezbollah,' the official told Reuters. A U.S. official told Reuters the target was apparently a building.
Weapons from Iran pour into Syria from Iraq but also increasingly along other routes, including via Turkey and Lebanon, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, Western officials said recently.
President Barack Obama would not comment on whether the air strikes had taken place, but said Israel had the right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah.
'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 Hezbollah,' Obama said in an interview on Saturday with the Spanish-language network Telemundo, during a three-day Latin America tour.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney) Keywords: SYRIA ISRAEL/IRAN
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