Syria says 3 soldiers killed in Israeli missile strikes near Damascus

Unconfirmed report claims raid targets Damascus International Airport; state media says air defenses intercept most of the missiles, but damage still caused

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: An explosion seen at the Syrian port of Latakia on December 28, 2021, after an alleged Israeli strike. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Illustrative: An explosion seen at the Syrian port of Latakia on December 28, 2021, after an alleged Israeli strike. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Three Syrian soldiers were killed after the Israeli military struck targets using surface-to-surface missiles near the Syrian capital of Damascus on Friday night, Syria’s official state media reported.

It was the second alleged Israeli attack in Syria in a week, after airstrikes last Friday targeted a structure in the country’s northwestern Masyaf region.

A Twitter account tracking Israeli military activity in Syria claimed the strikes targeted sites in the suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab, south of Damascus. Syria’s Sham FM radio station said a fire had ignited near Damascus International Airport, southeast of the city, as a result of the strikes. The claims could not immediately be independently verified.

The strikes came hours after the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson accused the son-in-law of assassinated Iran Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani of smuggling weapons from Iran to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah using civilian flights via Syria.

Avichay Adraee accused Iran and Hezbollah of “endangering civilians” by smuggling the armaments via civilian flights to Damascus International Airport in order “to maintain secrecy.”

The state-run broadcaster, SANA, said most of the missiles — launched from the Golan Heights — were intercepted. It did not immediately elaborate on the damage caused to the sites that were hit.

The three killed soldiers were reported to be crewmembers of an air defense system, according to local media reports.

The Syrian military claims to shoot down incoming missiles after nearly every alleged Israeli strike, an assertion Israeli military officials and civilian defense analysts largely dismiss as empty boasts.

SANA released a video claiming to show an air defense missile streaking through the night sky.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces, which does not normally comment on individual strikes.

Israel has carried out hundreds of sorties over Syria in the last decade, mostly to stymie attempts by Iranian forces to transfer weapons or establish a foothold.

In last Friday’s airstrikes, six Syrian soldiers were killed, all crewmembers of an air defense system, according to media reports.

Israeli strikes have continued in Syrian airspace, which is largely controlled by Russia, even as ties with Moscow have deteriorated in recent weeks. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine, while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

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