Warplanes Buzzed Syrian President's Home, Israeli Officials Say

State-run Syrian television said two Israeli planes flew near Syria's Mediterranean coast early Wednesday, and "national air defenses opened fire in the direction of the planes, and they dispersed."

The announcement did not mention a claim by Israeli military officials that the fighter jets buzzed the summer residence of President Bashar Assad in the coastal city of Latakia.

CountryWatch: Syria

CountryWatch: Israel

The officials said on condition of anonymity that Assad was targeted because of the "direct link" between Syria and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group holding Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, in the Gaza Strip. Syria hosts Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' exiled supreme leader.

"The overflight by two Israeli planes near the Syrian shores is an aggressive act and a provocation," the television news said, quoting an Information Ministry official it did not identify.

Wednesday's flyover was the second time Israel has buzzed Assad's summer palace. In August 2003, warplanes reportedly flew so low that windows in the palace shattered. At the time, Israel said the flyover was aimed at pressuring Assad to dismantle Palestinian militant groups based in his country.

In October 2003, an Israeli warplane bombed an Islamic Jihad training base deep in Syria. It was the first attack on Syrian soil in more than two decades.

The airstrike followed a suicide bombing by Islamic Jihad that killed 19 Israelis in a restaurant.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks.

Wednesday's overflights came as Israel bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, knocking out electricity and water supplies for most of its 1.3 million residents. Three bridges also were destroyed to keep militants from moving Shalit.

The Hamas-led Palestinian government and the militants holding Shalit called for a prisoner swap with Israel, saying the Gaza offensive would not secure the soldier's release.

Israel has refused to negotiate.