All In   |  May 03, 2013

Israel launches airstrikes inside Syria

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports on the breaking news that Israel has launched airstrikes inside Syria, hitting at least one military target.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> breaking news tonight. a senior official confirms that israel did indeed strike targets inside syria tonight. official declined comments when asked if it was chemical weapons related. joining me now chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell . andrea , what do we know about this strike and when it happened and when the intent was and whether the americans knew beforehand?

>> it is not clear whether the americans knew beforehand but whether they yellow-lighted this or green-lighted it, they will deny knowledge beforehand. what we do know is several sources are now telling us from u.s. official sources that israel did on friday strike against targets believed to be connected to be delivery systems for chemical weapons . it is not clear whether or not israeli airplanes crossed into syrian airspace but these were targets that were involved in weapons being delivered to lebanon . that is something that israel has said that they would prevent happening. a spokesman for the israeli embassy has said that while not commenting on reports they tell me israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the syrian regime to terrorists, especially to hezbollah in lebanon . some weapons were allegedly being delivered to hezbollah and it came at the same time as u.s. government , chris , was getting more intelligence today from a top u.n. weapons inspector visiting washington, that there had been chemical weapons used by the regime. chris ?

>> thank you, andrea . we also know that the israelis have struck once before if january. there is one other confirmed airstrike inside syria . i guess my question is, does this escalate things or cross some line or escalate things in a way that there is no going back now in terms of israel 's involvement in terms of the original nature of the conflict or can we see things walked back from this point?

>> it is unclear what will happen.

>> good evening. this week the george w. bush library opened in dallas -- -

>> the proxy for the united states by much of the anti-american sentiment in the region. but this is a clear shot across the bow and it is saying to the assad regime, you have crossed a line that rest of the world is not willing to tolerate except for of course iran and russia who are the strongest backers right now of the assad regime.

>> andrea , i wonder here what this, what this now puts on the table of the president. i think barack obama has been remarkably careful and judicious in the way he has discussed things. the red line that you just mentioned, which israel has been, i think, it is fair to say diplomatically pushing the u.s. to acknowledge as a clear bright thing to cross. the president has been textured and nuance about, is this a way of prevoccing the americans to do something? what does barack obama now have before him as the decision points when he comes and addresses the nation tomorrow or in a meeting in the sit o room as we speak?

>> it is really a complex relationship. it is rarely officials, in the army or u.s. ambassador of israel was on msnbc with me last week, very eager to say israel was not pushing the u.s. into action. at the same time the arab world is divided. turkey has been supporting the more radical elements, according to u.s. officials, in rebel forces. at the same time, saudi arabia , the uaemmirates saying they have to force the elements. only today, richard engel , and the military leader of the syrian forces and the cia own other intelligence experts are more moderate, less islamist, more secular. that's been the hope of the administration, they were hoping to either arm them or get them better training and not put weapons on the ground. all of the international experts have spoken to ambassadors from other countries, are saying there is no way that they will back away from the assad regime. so with the support of iran , with the support of the really tough front supported by al qaeda factions and the support of russia, it is right now, the balance of power , is more or less with the regime. it may change the balance of power today, though. this is a very strong warning to assad .

>> our understanding from u.s. officials and again, this is preliminary reports, so we are taking this from unnamed officials. i think there is a little bit of a grain of salt we should approach this with. but u.s. officials told msnbc news that the weapons were on their way out from syria to lebanon to hezbollah . there's been concern growing, not just among israel , but other players in the u.s. about hezbollah increasing involvement in the war happening in syria .

>> exactly. and one of the big concerns has been scud missiles . we know that scuds can reach not only israel but also american forces , nato forces, in turkey. the scuds have quite a a range. and syria has a huge arsenal of chemical weapons . so if there is concern that scuds could deliver weapons to israel via leb lebanon , israel has been clear that they won't take any action against any use of chemical weapons .

>> there is a really interesting bit of reporting from eli lake from the " daily beast " about chemical weapons and our knowledge of it in syria . it is said that there isn't a great sense of where the chemical weapons are. you have to wonder about what the next step is. how are keyed in are u.s. intelligence officials about what targets are there are to strike if strikes are going to happen or is everyone flying blind here?

>> i wouldn't say they are flying blind . but if you can't get the weapons depots without risking worse contamination. so if you are going to have a military plan and we have mill taurry plans on the shelf, the u.s. does, and certainly the israelis do, you have to hit the delivery systems or troops that are going to arm the weapons and actually launch them. you have to hit targets that are associated with chemical weapons but not the chemicals themselves. one of the problems, chris , is the mobility of this. and the president said back in august that he would not permit the assad regime to cross the red line . there has been a lot of concern though that the actual evidence now hard and the evidence has to be absolutely air tight before they would go to the world with this. they are very, very conscious from the mistakes made with weapons of mass destruction by the regime.

>> and the president has been very cautious and not just in verifying this intelligence, and press secretary carnie and the president himself when he took to the podium earlier saying basically, the red line is not just necessarily confirmation after one- time use or the appearance of weapons but something like their systematic deployment. they are clear about where that red line is. it appears that israel 's conception of that red line is quite different from the u.s. we've seen this before in other regional conflicts and in iran in which u.s. and israel and judgments about what the threshold for action is. and again, if you are just joining us, senior u.s. official confirms that israel did indeed strike targets inside syria tonight. officials declined comments whether it was chemical weapons related. what you are seeing is israel going ahead and acting on their threshold before the u.s. or we don't know whether with the it is a ud approval of the u.s. or not but before the u.s. has acted.

>> well, what we are hearing in this very carefully worded statement from israel , is a nondenial denial, and confirmation that they would stop any weapons that they thought were heading to hezbollah . that can be taken as confirmation from the israelis as something has happened and it involved that weapons that were intended for hostile forces inside lebanon .

>> hezbollah is shiite ma liilitia and they are increasingly fighting in the conflict in syria . let's remember, began as a small nonviolent resistance in the arab spring, because of the violence of the state and suppression on rebels has becomed an armed resistance . that armed resistance has grown into a regional conflict and there is tremendous concern about where this is all headed. and tonight right now, we have news that we may see a very significant escalation. once again, israel has, we are confirmi confirming nbc news, that israel struck inside syria against some weapons target. it is unclear at this point whether it is chemical weapons relateed. there is a report believed, a u.s. official, saying they believe it was a shipment of weapons heading for hezbollah in lebanon . andrea , the president has been on a trip. i believe we have sound from the president before this news broke talking about his approach to syria . do we have that? can we play that?

>> as a general rule, i don't rule things out as commander-in-chief. because circumstances change and you want to make sure that i always have the full power of the united states at our disposal to meet american national security interests. having said that, i do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in syria , american boots on the ground in syria would not only be good for america, but also good for syria . and by the way, when i consult with leaders in the region, who are very much interested in seeing president say assad leave office and stabilizing the situation in syria , they agree with that assessment.

>> andrea mitchell in washington. thank