BEIRUT (Reuters) – An Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed five members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement including the son of group’s late military leader Imad Moughniyah, sources close to Hezbollah said, in an attack that has the potential to trigger reprisals.
Israel’s military declined to comment, but Israel’s Ynet news Web site quoted an Israeli military source as saying the attack had targeted “terrorists who intended to attack Israel”.
The missile strike hit Jihad Moughniyah’s convoy in the Syrian province of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Lebanese sources said.
The strike comes three days after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he considered frequent Israeli strikes in Syria as a major aggression, and that Syria and its allies had the right to respond. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s nearly four-year-old civil war.
The Hezbollah-run al-Manar news channel did not mention Moughniyah but said Hezbollah had confirmed that a group of its fighters were killed when they were checking an area in Quneitra.
It said Hezbollah would announce the names of the dead later on Sunday.
Quneitra has seen heavy fighting between forces loyal to Assad and rebels including fighters linked to al Qaeda.
“An Israeli helicopter fired two missiles on Amal Farms in Quneitra,” the Lebanese news channel said earlier, adding that two reconnaissance planes had also been seen flying over the area.
Israel has struck Syria several times since the start of the war, mostly destroying weaponry such as missiles that Israeli officials said were destined for Hezbollah, Israel’s long-time foe in neighboring Lebanon.
Syria said last month that Israeli jets had bombed areas near Damascus international airport and in the town of Dimas, near the border with Lebanon.
Imad Moughniyah, who was on the United States’ most wanted list for attacks on Israeli and Western targets, was assassinated in Damascus in 2008.