Four members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and three Syrian soldiers were killed in airstrikes around Damascus late Thursday night which Syria attributed to Israel, according to a Britain-based Syrian civil war monitor.
At approximately 11:45 p.m., incoming missiles struck five weapons depots near Damascus International Airport, including an attack on a military position south of the Syrian capital, the al-Arabiya news channel reported, citing unidentified sources.
The attack came hours after a shipment — reportedly of munitions — arrived at the airport from Tehran, according to flight data.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported that in total seven people were killed in the strikes, four of them from the IRGC and three from the Syrian military.
After a quick stop (landing after 16:13, taking off before 17:39 UTC – Less than 1.5 hours!) Iranian IRGC-linked EP-FAB is already on the way back out, now #QFZ9951.
Because night time, that's when the air strikes happen. pic.twitter.com/7i6Ro3dvBo
— Gerjon | חריון (@Gerjon_) February 12, 2020
Both Syria and the Observatory said Israel was behind the strike. The Israeli military did not comment on the matter, in accordance with its long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying such operations abroad.
Asked about Israel’s alleged involvement in a Friday morning interview to Radio Haifa, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I don’t comment on one operation or another.
“I don’t know what happened at night. Maybe it was the Belgian air force,” he quipped.
Videos posted to social media by residents of the area showed explosions in mid-air lighting up the night, apparently as Syrian anti-aircraft missiles burst in the sky.
The Syrian state media outlet SANA said that the country’s air defenses intercepted many of the incoming missiles, an oft-heard Syrian claim that most defense analysts dismiss as false, empty boasts.
Earlier on Thursday, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatened to target both Israel and the United States if they “make the slightest error.”
The late night strikes came just over a week after a series of strikes on several targets near Damascus in the predawn hours of last Thursday morning, which reportedly killed 23 pro-Iranian fighters.
The Israel Defense Forces did not acknowledge carrying out the strikes, but Syrian state media blamed Israel, and over the weekend Defense Minister Naftali Bennett seemingly took credit for it, saying Israel had carried out an attack against Iran in the past week and noting: “Foreign media reported this week that 23 Syrians and Iranians were killed there. Those are large numbers and we will do more and more.”
Israel has long maintained that it will not tolerate efforts by Iran — a close ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad — to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and would take steps to thwart such entrenchment. Israel accuses Iran of seeking to set up a military presence in Syria that could be used as a launchpad for attacks against the Jewish state.
Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, but the IDF has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.