Syria blames Israel for overnight attack on a military airbase
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Syria blames Israel for overnight attack on a military airbase

Official alleges surface-to-surface missiles lobbed from Golan Heights; Hezbollah accuses IAF in separate bombing near Damascus

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Screen shot of footage of alleged Israeli missile strike on the Syrian Mazzeh airbase  near Damascus on December 7, 2016. (Credit: Twitter)
Screen shot of footage of alleged Israeli missile strike on the Syrian Mazzeh airbase near Damascus on December 7, 2016. (Credit: Twitter)

The Israeli military fired missiles from within “occupied” territory at an important Syrian regime airbase outside Damascus overnight Tuesday, Syrian state media reported hours later.

“At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

SANA said the missiles were fired from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada,” a mountain in the Israeli Golan Heights known as Mount Avital in Israel.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.”

Other Arabic media, including al Jazeera and al Arabiya, confirmed that a large explosion had occurred at the airport. Some reports said the fire was caused when a weapons depot exploded.

A video of the explosion at the airport spread through social media.

The Mazzeh airbase, less than eight kilometers (five miles) southwest of Damascus, hosts the headquarters of the feared air force intelligence service and its notorious prison.

While reports of Israeli airstrikes in Syria have become frequent in recent years, claims Israel used surface-to-surface missiles to strike targets near Damascus are highly unusual.

In December, 2015, some Syrian reports claimed Israel killed notorious Hezbollah terrorist Samir Kuntar using surface-to-surface missiles fired from within Israel.

Syrian sources reported that Hezbollah sites near the Syrian capital were also targeted Tuesday night by airstrikes that killed and injured a number of fighters in the Shiite militia.

Some of the reports, citing eyewitnesses, said Israeli fighter planes were responsible for the airstrikes, in the town of al-Zabadani. However, official Hezbollah and Syrian regime sources didn’t initially blame Israel for that attack.

As is their wont in such cases, Israeli officials wouldn’t comment on any of the reports.

The Kurdish website ARA News, citing an eyewitness, said the airstrikes Tuesday night struck guided missile sites belonging to Hezbollah.

The source told ARA the airstrikes caused “great damage” and killed and injured a number of Hezbollah fighters. The injured were scrambled to hospitals in nearby towns, the report said.

The reported airstrikes come exactly a week after the official website of the Syrian government Sana accused Israel of carrying out bombing raids near Damascus.

Hezbollah has thousands of fighters in Syria, providing military aid to Assad regime and Iranian forces.

In April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel had carried out dozens of strikes against Hezbollah to prevent the group from obtaining advanced weapons — a rare Israeli admission.

Israel has vowed to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining “game-changing” arms — in particular advanced anti-aircraft systems and chemical weapons.

Judah Ari Gross and AFP contributed to this report.

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