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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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May 6th, 2013
07:41 PM ET

Syria: More than just a civil war?

Reported Israeli airstrikes into Syria over the weekend killed 42 Syrian soldiers, according to an opposition group. The strikes appear to be aimed at preventing weapons from being transferred to the militant group Hezbollah, sources tell CNN's Barbara Starr. While the Syrian government says these strikes "open the door" to retaliation, an Israeli general says that there are "no winds of war."

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told "The Lead" on Friday, "If the Syrian regime tries to transfer chemical weapons, or what we call game changing weaponry, to terrorist organizations, particularly to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel will not remain passive."

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, who is in Damascus, Syria, spoke with the country's deputy foreign minister.

"The Syrian regime is absolutely angry," with the Israeli airstrike, said Pleitgen. "What was hit is really the power center of the Syrian military." The strike hit a compound that housed units of the elite Republican Guard, research facilities, and a big weapons depot.

"They are threatening retaliation," said Pleitgen.

CNN's Hala Gorani said Israel does not expect the situation to escalate region-wide. After all, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to China went ahead as planned, and he did not even mention Syria on his first day in the country.

But the Israeli strike may have had the unintended consequence of benefitting the Syrian regime.

"From the beginning the Assad regime has said there are outside forces working against the Syrian people," said Gorani. The Israeli strike "reinforces that narrative."

Israel and the international community are also waiting to see whether the U.S. will step up its involvement in the Syrian conflict. President Obama said in August that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line" for the U.S.

"When you set red lines, people believe them, and when you don't uphold them people lose faith in your credibility to uphold them," said Josh Rogin, of Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

The president has since walked back his comment, saying last week that Syria has crossed several lines.

"When I am making decisions about American national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapons use, I have to make sure I have the facts," Obama said.

"It doesn't really in the end matter what the lines are, what matters is what the U.S. response will be, and that's what we're all waiting to see," said Rogin.

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