Officials: Israel launches airstrike into Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel launched an airstrike into Syria, apparently targeting a suspected weapons site, U.S. officials said

Friday night.

The strike occurred overnight Thursday into Friday, the officials told The Associated Press. It did not appear that a chemical

weapons site was targeted, they said, and one official said the strike appeared to have hit a warehouse.

The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Israel has targeted weapons in the past that

it believes are being delivered to the Lebanon-based militant group

Hezbollah.

Earlier this week, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said

his group would assist Syrian President Bashar Assad if needed

in the effort to put down a 2-year-old uprising.

Israeli Embassy spokesman Aaron Sagui would not comment Friday night specifically on the report of an Israeli strike into

Syria.

"What we can say is that Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry

by the Syrian regime to terrorists, specially to Hezbollah in Lebanon," Sagui said in an email to the AP.

In 2007, Israeli jets bombed a suspected

nuclear reactor site along the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria, an

attack that

embarrassed and jolted the Assad regime and led to a buildup of

the Syrian air defense system. Russia provided the hardware

for the defense systems upgrade and continues to be a reliable

supplier of military equipment to the Assad regime.

Word of the new strike, first reported by

CNN, came hours before President Barack Obama told reporters at a news

conference

in Costa Rica on Friday that he didn't foresee a scenario in which

the U.S. would send troops to Syria. More than 70,000 peoples

have died and hundreds of thousands have fled the country as the

Assad regime has battled rebels.

The Israeli strike also follows days of

renewed concerns that Syria might be using chemical weapons against

opposition forces.

Obama has characterized evidence of the use of chemical weapons as

a "game-changer" that would have "enormous consequences."

While the U.S. has been providing nonlethal aide to opposition forces in Syria, even stepping up that form of support in recent

days, the Obama administration has resisted calls from some American lawmakers to arm the rebels or to work to establish a

no-fly zone to aid the insurgency.

On Thursday, however, Defense Secretary

Chuck Hagel said the administration is rethinking its opposition to

providing arms

to the rebels. He said it was one of several options as the U.S.

consults with allies about steps to be taken to drive Assad

from power. Officials in the administration who spoke on condition

of anonymity to discuss strategy said earlier this week

that arming the opposition forces was seen as more likely than any

other military option.

Obama followed Hagel's comments by saying

options will continue to be evaluated, though he did not cite providing

arms specifically.

Concerns that U.S. weapons could end up in the hands of

al-Qaida-linked groups helping the Syrian opposition or other

extremists,

including Hezbollah, have stood in the way of that change in

strategy.

"We want to make sure that we look before we leap and that what we're doing is actually helpful to the situation as opposed

to making it more deadly or more complex," Obama said Thursday at a news conference in Mexico.