Israeli defense officials said that an airstrike the country launched in Syria was directed against a facility used to manufacture chemical weapons, in violation of international agreements.

In a press release, the Syrian government denied it was manufacturing chemical weapons, adding that the Israeli strike killed two soldiers near the town of Masyaf, which hosts a branch of the government agency responsible for developing and producing nonconventional weapons and the means to deliver them, known as the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).

The Syrian government made no mention of the facility and instead said the Israeli airstrike involving missiles fired from Lebanese airspace were aimed more at hindering Damacas’ fight against the Islamic State.

The strike comes at a time of increased tension on Israel’s northern borders with Syria and Lebanon.

Source: Washington Post

Why it’s on our radar: In recent weeks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ramping up the rhetoric, singling out Iran for building sites in Lebanon and Syria to manufacture missiles — something he said Israel cannot (and likely would not) tolerate.

While Israel has launched about 100 airstrikes into Syria since civil war broke out more than four years ago, this particular attack is said to represent an escalation, because it targeted an official Syrian government facility. Israeli defense officials said that not only does the facility targeted produce chemical weapons, but it also manufactures missiles which are regularly transferred to Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, which is growing in strength and power in Syria and Lebanon. While Israel is concerned about the threat of chemical weapons, its military brass may have been more worried about the missiles going to Hezbollah, given Tel Aviv’s policy of targeting Hezbollah-bound weapons shipments.

Some think the strike could lead to an escalation, which would, of course, invite a heavier response from Israel. We think conflict is coming between Israel and Hezbollah — and Iran and its other proxy, Hamas — in any case.