By Sara Sidner, reporting from Jerusalem
The issue of how to deal with the movement or transfer of sophisticated weapons in Syria to groups such as Hezbollah or al Qaeda will come up in Israeli discussions with U.S. President Barack Obama this week.
Israeli officials will not publicly confirm or deny a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper that Israel's leadership will try to persuade Obama - who is traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories - to have U.S. forces carry out airstrikes against Syria if evidence shows sophisticated missiles are being handed over to groups both have deemed terrorist organizations.
But a senior Israeli official said, "Syria has weapons not even Iran has. We know where their weapons are and we are watching very closely. In prior discussion I have been in I have not heard a specific request to the United States in those terms. However, these sorts of issues have come up in discussions with America."
Syria "is fragmenting and no one wants to see chemical weapons or state of the art weaponry that Syria has fall into the hands of al Qaeda or Hezbollah in Lebanon," the source said, ending with, "We reserve the right to act in such a crisis. But if someone else would act we wouldn't have to."
On January 30, a U.S. official told CNN an Israeli air strike inside Syria hit a convoy carrying parts of surface-to-air missiles intended for Hezbollah. Controversy remains, however, as to what was hit. Syria's leadership said Israel hit a research facility in a Damascus suburb.
While Israel has not officially commented on the strike, Israel's then-defense minister, Ehud Barak, in January suggested during remarks made at a security conference in Munich, Germany, that Israel had a role in it.
Barak said, "I cannot add anything to what you've read in the newspapers about ... what happened in Syria several days ago but I keep telling frankly that we've said - and that's another proof that when we say something, we mean it. We say that we don't think that it should be allowable to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon."
Meanwhile, U.S. officials say a change on the ground inside Syria is necessary to change President Bashar al-Assad's assessment of the situation.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. would not stand in the way of its allies arming Syrian rebels. His comments come as Britain and France are pushing the European Union to lift the weapons embargo in order to arm moderate Syrian rebels. Kerry acknowledged the need to change the military “imbalance” on the ground in order to change Assad’s “calculus.” Kerry made the remarks at a press conference on Monday at the State Department.
Last week, Syrian rebels told CNN that the U.S. is helping in organizing training in anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons for Syrian rebels in Jordan.