Photo of explosion over Damascus, Syria: Screenshot from SANA
The Syrian government claimed that on Wednesday its air defenses intercepted an Israeli airstrike in central Syria, state news agency SANA reported quoting a military source.
The Israeli warplanes reportedly fired missiles from the direction of the al-Tanf area in southeastern Syria near the Syrian-Iraqi border and the Israeli-held Golan Heights. They targeted the T4 airbase, the largest in the country, in the central province of Homs, SANA said. The missile attack started at 10:40 pm. Residents of Damascus said they heard explosions south of the city.
SANA reported that the Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the missiles and the rest caused only light damage and no casualties. This is a familiar boast of the Syrian military. However, most reputable military analysts usually dismiss the Syrian claims.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor also reported the strikes. It said that Israel targeted military posts south of Damascus and that Syrian air defenses responded to the attack.
The Israel Defense Forces did not comment on the reported strikes, in accordance with Israeli policy.
The reported airstrikes occurred just two days after Israel was said to have launched missiles at targets in Syria’s south, killing at least three people according to SANA.
Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, an IDF spokesman, said on Tuesday regarding Israeli involvement in the Monday night missile airstrike: “The Israel Defense Forces have an interest and strategic goals on the northern front, and we are doing everything necessary to achieve our targets.“
The SOHR reported that a total of 11 people, mostly military personnel, were killed in the Israeli missile strikes on the capital Damascus and Daraa province in southern Syria in Monday’s attack. According to SOHR, the dead were a civilian woman, three Syrian soldiers, and seven foreign fighters, among them Iran-backed paramilitary fighters.
“Israeli missiles bombed the vicinity of Izraa, the Namer Brigade, the Qarafa Brigade, and Tal Mahajah in the northeastern countryside of Daraa, where the Lebanese Hezbollah forces are present,” the SOHR said in their statement.
On the other hand, SANA reported that two Syrian soldiers and a civilian woman were killed and seven wounded, including the woman’s husband. “The Israeli aggression resulted in two martyrs, seven wounded soldiers, and material damage,” SANA said, referring to the soldiers killed. SANA and the Syrian government rarely, if ever, admit to Iranian casualties. Other news outlets reported higher numbers.
The Syrian opposition media outlet, Aleppo Today, reported that the woman’s and her husband’s home in al-Haijaneh was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, and not by an Israeli-launched weapon. Syrian officials did not comment on that report.
In the past several months, Israeli military officials have grown concerned that their archenemy, Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group, is building precision-guided missiles in Syrian territory.
The airstrike on Monday was the first reported Israeli strike on targets in Syria since a July 20 airstrike in which a Hezbollah fighter was killed. That airstrike had led to Hezbollah to vow revenge for his death. Israel, in response, put its Northern Command on high alert, expecting the terror group to attack. Hezbollah fighters unsuccessfully attempted to cross the border and plant explosives. They also conducted a failed sniper attack last week. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Sunday that his group would kill an Israeli soldier in retaliation for the death of its operative.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. It has targeted government troops, allied Iranian forces, and Hezbollah fighters. Israel has frequently stated that President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government have to take responsibility for the actions taken in the country by the Iranians and Hezbollah.