Intelligence minister appears to confirm Israeli strike on Syria
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Intelligence minister appears to confirm Israeli strike on Syria

Yisrael Katz says preventing weapons from reaching Hezbollah is ‘completely compatible’ with Jerusalem’s policy; Syrian state media says raid targeted military installation

A photo taken from the rebel-held town of Douma shows flames rising in the distance which are believed to be coming from Damascus International Airport following an explosion early in the morning of April 27, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / Sameer Al-Doumy)
A photo taken from the rebel-held town of Douma shows flames rising in the distance which are believed to be coming from Damascus International Airport following an explosion early in the morning of April 27, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / Sameer Al-Doumy)

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz on Thursday appeared to confirm reports that Israel was behind an overnight airstrike near the Damascus airport.

Katz, who is also transportation minister, told Army Radio in an interview Thursday morning that “the incident is completely compatible with our policy of preventing weapons transfer to Hezbollah,” the Lebanon-based terror group supported by the Syrian regime and Iran.

“Every time we receive intelligence information on plans to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, we will act,” the minister added. “We must prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria.”

Explosions rocked the area around Damascus’s airport earlier on Thursday morning, setting off fires. Syria’s state media SANA said Israel fired several missiles from inside the Golan Heights south of the capital at a military installation near the capital’s main airport, triggering several blasts and causing damage.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

An unnamed regional intelligence source, quoted by Reuters, said the strike was carried out by Israel and targeted an Iran-supplied Hezbollah arms depot.

The Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar news site also attributed the raid to the Jewish state, saying an initial missile strike against a weapons warehouse belonging to government forces caused fuel silos to explode, leading to a cascade of explosions that damaged a few nearby homes.

In this Tuesday, March 7, 2017 photo, Israel's transportation and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP/Dan Balilty)
In this Tuesday, March 7, 2017 photo, Israel’s transportation and intelligence minister Yisrael Katz speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP/Dan Balilty)

Explosions were also reported in the Al-Mazzeh area of the Syrian capital, apparently at the Mazzeh Air Base, a military airstrip used by regime forces.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.

In April 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.

Late last month, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the IDF only carries out raids in Syria for three reasons: when Israel comes under fire, to prevent arms transfers, and to avert a “ticking timebomb,” namely to thwart imminent terror attacks on Israel by groups on its borders.

The alleged Israeli airstrike on Thursday came a day after Liberman met with Russian ministers in Moscow. Despite Russia’s alliance with both Iran and Hezbollah, Israel and Russia have maintained a level of security coordination in order to prevent conflicts between their two militaries in Syria, where Moscow is fighting against opponents of the Assad regime.

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