Army finds pieces of Syrian missile in Golan field after alleged Israeli strikes
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Army finds pieces of Syrian missile in Golan field after alleged Israeli strikes

Fragments found of surface-to-air missile fired overnight; Syrian monitors say IAF raid targeted Iranian, Hezbollah weapons depots; Israel mum on raid, denies claim it lost a plane

Syrian anti-aircraft missiles rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases, in Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018. (Government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)
Syrian anti-aircraft missiles rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases, in Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018. (Government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Israeli troops on the Golan Heights on Friday found a number of fragments of a Syrian surface-to-air missile that was fired during an alleged Israeli airstrike on Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria the night before.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the remnants of the missile were found in an open field on the Golan heights. The pieces have been taken in for further examination by the military and the police, the army said.

Also on Friday, the Syria Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said it identified several of the sites hit in what it said was an Israeli bombardment that lasted “for an hour.”

The Israeli military refused to comment on the raid, but denied a report in Russian media that an Israeli plane had been shot down. The Syrian military claimed its air defenses shot down all incoming “hostile targets” late Thursday. However, many security analysts believe Syria often falsely claims to have intercepted missiles that successfully penetrated its air defenses.

According to the director of the Syria Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, the Israeli bombardment hit two positions in the south of Damascus province, including an area believed to be an Iranian weapons depot near the capital.

Once a regular occurrence, reports of Israeli airstrikes in Syria have become increasingly rare in the past two months, after Syria accidentally shot down a Russian spy plane during an Israeli raid, which Moscow blamed on Israel.

According to Abdel Rahmn, two Israeli missiles hit al-Kiswah, where he said there are “weapons depots belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah [terrorist group] as well as Iranian forces.”

Another missile hit the area of Harfa, near the Israeli border, where there is a Syrian military base, the UK-based monitor said.

In Kisweh, “the depots that were targeted are used to temporarily store rockets until they are taken somewhere else,” Abdel Rahman said.

Illustrative: This photo released on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows flames rising after an attack in an area known to have numerous Syrian army military bases, in Kisweh, south of Damascus. (SANA via AP)

“It appears the Israelis had intelligence that weapons had arrived there recently,” he said.

Explosions were also reported in and around the Syrian capital of Damascus, near its international airport, which Israel claims has been used by Iran to supply terror groups with advanced weaponry.

According to the Kremlin-backed Sputnik new site, blasts were also heard near the town of al-Dimas, along the Damascus-Beirut highway, which may indicate that an arms shipment was targeted in the alleged Israeli strikes.

Thursday’s strike was the first time Syria’s air defenses had been called into action since they inadvertently shot down a Russian spy plane and the 15 people on board during an Israeli raid on September 17.

Despite the strained relationship with Russia, Israeli officials maintain that the IDF continues to operate in the country. However, many defense analysts suspect that Russia — with the advanced air defense systems it has in Syria — may be curbing Israel’s ability to rein its arch nemesis Iran’s military presence in the country.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, which it says were aimed at both preventing Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria and blocking the transfer of advanced munitions to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel has designated these two issues as “red lines” that it will take military action to prevent.

However, this has slowed in the past two months following the downing of the Russian plane.

Moscow blamed Israel for the incident and supplied Damascus with the advanced S-300 air defense system — something it had previously refrained from doing following requests from Jerusalem.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

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