President Obama defended Israel's right to bomb targets inside Syria following reports that the U.S. ally carried out a bombing run to prevent missile transfers to Islamist militants.
“I'll let the Israeli government … confirm or deny whatever strikes that they've taken,” Obama told Telemundo in an interview scheduled to run Sunday. “What I have said in the past and … I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably ... have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”
His comments were made before reports of a second Israeli air strike in days on Syria.
According to Reuters, Syria accused the Jewish state of again striking a military facility just north of the capital, a site that was also targeted three months ago.
The Israeli air force strikes cast a shadow over Obama's three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica following the administration's acknowledgment that Bashar Assad's appears to have used chemical weapons, crossing Obama's “red line.” The president reiterated in the interview that he has not taken any options off the table in terms of how to respond, even if sending U.S. troops to Syria isn't currently in the cards.
“With respect to the larger issue of Syria, as I said yesterday … I don't take any options off the table as commander in chief. Circumstances can change. You never know what contingencies you have to deal with,” Obama said, according to a Telemundo transcript. “But … what I do know is that … I cannot see a scenario right now in which American boots on the ground would make any sense. And I cannot see a scenario … in which actually the Syrian people would benefit from American boots on the ground. And that's confirmed by the conversations that I've had with … allies … and people who support the opposition in the region.”
Obama went on to say that his administration would continue to try to get Bashar Assad removed from power. He appeared to downplay the likelihood that his administration would arm vetted Syrian rebel groups, however, something officials have been saying could happen if the intelligence community confirms its assessment that Assad has used chemical weapons.
“What we are going to do,” Obama said, “is continue to provide humanitarian aide, provide [non-]lethal aide, work to ... help the opposition coordinate intelligent … efforts to end the bloodshed and get … Assad out of power so we can move to a peaceful transition.”
--This report was originally published on Saturday at 4:18 p.m. and last updated on Sunday at 6:30 a.m.