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Sources: Israeli strike in Syria is a continuation of its policy

BEIRUT -- With a second airstrike against Syria in four months, Israel enforced its own red line of not allowing game-changing weapons to reach Lebanon's Hezbollah, a heavily armed foe of the Jewish state, Israeli officials said yesterday.

The missiles were believed to be m600s, a Syrian version of Iran's Fatah 110 missile, an extremely accurate guided missile capable of traveling roughly 190 miles with a half-ton warhead, an Israeli official said.

The strike also raised new concerns that the region's most powerful military could be dragged into Syria's civil war and spark a wider conflagration.

Fighting has repeatedly spilled across Syria's borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights during more than two years of conflict, while more than 1 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

The airstrike, which was carried out early Friday and was confirmed by U.S. officials, comes as Washington considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons in its civil war. President Barack Obama has described the use of such weapons as a "red line," and the administration is weighing its options -- including possible military action.

Israeli officials did not say where in Syria the Israeli aircraft struck or whether they fired from Lebanese, Syrian or Israeli airspace. Israel has said it wants to stay out of the brutal Syria war, but could inadvertently be drawn in as it tries to bolster its deterrence and prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hezbollah or other extremist groups.

Israel and Hezbollah, an ally of President Bashar Assad's regime, fought a monthlong war in mid-2006 that ended in a stalemate.

Israel believes Hezbollah has restocked its arsenal with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated the Jewish state would be prepared to take military action to prevent the Islamic militant group from obtaining new weapons that could upset the balance of power.

It is especially concerned that Hezbollah will take advantage of the chaos in neighboring Syria and try to smuggle advanced weapons into Lebanon. These include anti-aircraft missiles, which could hamper Israel's ability to operate in Lebanese skies, and advanced Yakhont missiles that are used to attack naval ships from the coast.

While Israeli officials yesterday portrayed the latest airstrike as the continuation of Israel's deterrence policy, more Israeli attacks could quickly lead to an escalation, leaving open the possibility of retaliation by Hezbollah or even the Assad regime and Syria ally Iran.

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