Damascus says Israeli airstrikes target bases near Homs, southern Syria

Syrian state media says its air defenses engage Israeli missiles fired from over Lebanon and the Golan Heights

Illustrative: An explosion seen near the city of Homs in Syria attributed to Israeli airstrikes on March 5, 2020 (video screen capture)
Illustrative: An explosion seen near the city of Homs in Syria attributed to Israeli airstrikes on March 5, 2020 (video screen capture)

Damascus said early Thursday that Israel was carrying out airstrikes in central and southern Syria and that its air defenses had engaged the missiles.

The state-run SANA news agency said “our air defense confronted an Israeli missile attack in the southwest of Quneitra province” in the south and also an area in the center of the country.  Quneitra  is just over the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.

SANA quoted a military source saying that at 12.30 am on Thursday (2230 GMT Wednesday) “our air defense observed Israeli warplane movement… several missiles were fired towards the central region.

“The hostile missiles were immediately dealt with, and were successfully confronted, none was able to reach its target.” Syria routinely and falsely claims to have intercepted Israeli missiles.

In mid-February, Israeli strikes on Damascus airport killed seven Syrian and Iranian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.

SANA later said the missiles were fired from Lebanese airspace and from inside the Golan.

The short statement released after midnight did not provide details on the targets. Reports said the strikes in the center were near the city of Homs.

Israel has attacked the T-4, or Tiyas, air base near Homs on multiple occasions.

Israeli defense officials have previously claimed the base is being used by Iranian forces as part of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to entrench militarily in Syria, something Israel has vowed to prevent.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

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.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrike attributed to Israel that targeted the Syrian T-4 air base near Palmyra on June 2, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Israel has in the past accused Iran of attempting to set up rocket launching crews and other “terror infrastructure” in the Syrian Golan Heights, to be used  against Israel.

An agreement with Russia was supposed to push Iranian and Tehran-backed militias, including Hezbollah, dozens of kilometers away from the border.

Last week Israeli aircraft attacked Syrian army positions in the Golan Heights as tensions rose along the border following an earlier reported strike.

Helicopters fired missiles at army positions in Quneitra, and the nearby towns of al-Qataniyah and al-Hurriyet, the state-run SANA news agency said.

It said three soldiers were injured in the strikes.

The bombings came hours after SANA reported that an Israeli drone killed one person in southern Syria’s Quneitra province, in the demilitarized zone near the border with Israel.

“A civilian was martyred when his car was targeted by a drone belonging to the Israeli enemy south of the town of Hader,” the SANA news agency reported.

The report did not specify when the alleged strike took place or identify the man.

Quoting Syrian reports, Hebrew-language media named him as Imad Tawil, a local resident who had been recruited by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and served as a local commander for the organization.

The reports said Tawil was apparently involved in setting up “terror infrastructure” that could be used to launch attacks along the border.


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