Iran-linked sites around Damascus said hit in Israeli strike

Monitoring group says ‘at least six Israeli missiles hit several positions’ near Syrian capital belonging to regime forces, pro-Tehran militias; Syrian media says 7 troops injured

An Israel Air Force F-16, December 31, 2015 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Israel Air Force F-16, December 31, 2015 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Military sites linked to Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias were targeted Monday in Israeli strikes south of Damascus, according to a monitoring group.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aerial bombardments caused several explosions around the town of Kiswah, south of the Syrian capital, an area that has long been associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“At least six Israeli missiles hit several positions belonging to regime forces and pro-Iran militias south of Damascus,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

“Air defenses did not intercept a single target,” he said, adding it was unknown if there were casualties and the extent of damage remained unclear.

The attack reportedly came in two waves. The Reuters news service reported that the assault hit targets in the towns of Jabal al Mane, Muqaylabiya and Zakiya, causing “huge blasts” and allegedly killing Iranian personnel.

AFP correspondents in Damascus said they heard several loud blasts.

A military source quoted by SANA said Israeli fighter planes over the Golan Heights fired rockets toward Damascus. The news agency said seven soldiers were hurt and damage was caused, but claimed that most of the missiles were shot down. Such claims of interceptions by Syrian state media are generally dismissed by defense analysts as false, empty boasts.

Reuters quoted a Syrian analyst with sources on the ground named Zaid al Reys as saying that the target of the attack was a “major ammunitions depot.”

The attack came a week and a half after Iran and Syria signed an agreement that would see Tehran upgrade the Syrian military’s air defenses, apparently in response to ongoing Israeli strikes in the country.

Monday night’s attacks were the first in Syria to be attributed to Israel since June, when the Observatory said nine fighters were killed in airstrikes targeting positions of Iran-backed militias near the Iraqi border.

Those strikes came hours after a similar raid killed six other Tehran-backed fighters.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. It has targeted government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah.

It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.

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