The weapons were variously reported as SA-17 mobile medium-range antiaircraft missiles, Yakhont anti-ship missiles, or Scud short-range ballistic missiles. All three weapon systems are regarded as “game changers” in the Israeli context because of the threat they pose to Israeli aircraft, shipping, and populated areas respectively. In particular, the SA-17 missiles could limit the ability of Israeli jets to monitor Hezbollah and Syrian weapons sites.
However, Syria claims that the airstrike targeted a research facility that belongs to the Scientific Studies and Research Center, a government-run agency that is suspected of spearheading Syria's weapons development program. Israeli Lt. Col. Dany Shoham (ret.), a specialist in chemical and biological warfare who served in Israel’s Ministry of Defense in the 1990s, says it’s possible that that facility was developing or upgrading components related to chemical weapons.
The facility is located in Jermaya, five miles from central Damascus, and is surrounded to the north, east, and west by sprawling military bases for the elite Republican Guards unit.
Israel last staged a raid inside Syria in September 2007 when it targeted a suspected nuclear facility near Deir ez-Zor in the northeast. If the target of yesterday’s airstrike was indeed a Hezbollah arms convoy in transit across the border with Lebanon, it would be the first time that Israel has undertaken such a step.
The fact that Hezbollah ignored that report and instead publicly endorsed the Syrian claim that a military research center was targeted suggests that the militant group is not planning to retaliate against Israel.
But Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, warned that his country may strike back. Damascus has "the option and the surprise to retaliate," he said, according to The Associated Press, but declined to give a time frame.