US sources said earlier Israeli warplanes had struck targets in Syria including a chemical weapons depot outside Damascus, firing missiles remotely from Lebanese air space and the Golan starting Friday and continuing up until early Saturday, May 3. An Israeli spokesman confirmed only an air strike in Syria against a shipment of long-range surface missiles.
The latest reports from Lebanon point to expanding Israeli military activity inside Lebanon as well.
They describe Israeli warplanes as flying “at a medium altitude over the Eastern and Western Mountain ranges of the Beqaa Valley.” DEBKAfile: Hizballah strongholds are located in this region which is close to the Syrian border. Other warplanes were described as heading north over Beirut.
One Lebanese source claimed Israeli ground troops had descended from the Mt. Dov-Hermon range, crossed the Lebanese border and entered the Shebaa Farms region.
None of these reports are confirmed by Israel, Lebanon or Syria. But DEBKAfile notes that if Israeli troops have indeed penetrated Lebanon to a depth of 5-7 kilometers and reached the Shebaa Farms, they have taken up positions opposite the 30 Syrian Shiite villages guarded by incoming Iranian elite Basij militiamen.
DEBKAfile reported exclusively Friday that thousands of Basij militiamen had just been airlifted from Iran to Syria, establishing an Iranian military presence opposite Israel from Syria as well as Lebanon. They joined a comparable number of Hizballah militiamen fighting for the Bashar regime.
Given the rush of adverse military developments across Israel’s northern borders, its operations in Syria and Lebanon are expected to continue and even expand.
This is also indicated by last week’s mobilization of thousands of reservists for an event termed by the IDF spokesman “a military exercise” beginning Sunday, May 5 along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.
The spokesman was clearly trying to misdirect attention from Israel’s preparations for an important military operation by announcing a routine drill.
DEBKAfile adds: The initial claim by Syria, Iran and Hizballah of ignorance of any Israeli action is unlikely to hold up for long. They might keep up the act if the Israeli strike turned out to be a one-off against a single target - the picture the “Israeli official” tried to present after the event.
But if there is more to come, Bashar Assad, Ali Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah will not let Israel go unchallenged. This threesome is undoubtedly on the phone at this moment working on their response.
Some of the earlier reports by US media claimed Israeli jets were seen Saturday before dawn circling over Assad's presidential compound in Damascus before moving on to target a weapons site. The Israeli jets reportedly received fire but returned to base unscathed.
DEBKAfile’s military sources added that the start of the Israeli air force operation could have been fixed precisely by the sirens which went off suddenly over the Golan Friday afternoon and again before dawn Saturday. The IDF spokesman said they were set off by a “technical glitch.” They now prove to have been triggered automatically by Israeli aerial movements. For five days, Lebanon has been reporting Israeli warplane intrusions of its air space.