An airstrike in Damascus over the weekend that was attributed to Israel targeted a meeting of Syrian and Iranian experts in producing drones, according to a report Wednesday.
Syria has said five people were killed and 15 wounded in the attack on Saturday night. The Israeli military has not commented on the strike, per its policy of not generally commenting on air raids in Syria. Israeli officials have previously said the IDF does not target civilians and seeks to avoid damage to residential areas as much as possible.
Citing an unnamed source close to the Syrian government, Reuters said the strike hit the meeting of experts in a residential neighborhood of Damascus.
“The strike hit the center where they were meeting as well as an apartment in a residential building. One Syrian engineer and one Iranian official — not high-ranking — were killed,” the source said.
According to a second source quoted in the report, the gathering was held “in an Iranian military installation in the basement of a residential building inside a security compound.” The source said that among those killed was a civil engineer in the Syrian army who worked at the Scientific Studies and Research Center, which has been linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
An additional source said an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps engineer involved with Iranian missile development was seriously hurt in the strike and sent to a hospital in Tehran for treatment.
A fourth source who spoke with Reuters said the target of the attack was part of an IRGC-led covert guided-missile manufacturing program, while a fifth source reported Iranian officials and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group were targets.
Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the strike on Sunday, but did not mention any Iranian casualties.
It was also denounced by Russia, which like Iran is a key backer of the Syrian regime in the over decade-long civil war, as a “flagrant violation” of international law.
Israel’s need to coordinate with Russia — which largely controls Syrian airspace — to carry out strikes has been cited as a chief reason for Jerusalem’s reluctance to supply Kyiv with weaponry amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it increasingly supported Ukraine while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.
“We strongly urge the Israeli side to stop armed provocations against the Syrian Arab Republic and refrain from steps that are fraught with dangerous consequences for the entire region,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Sunday, according to Reuters.
Syrian state media has reported the strike in Kafar Sousah killed four civilians and one soldier, and wounded another 15 civilians, along with inflicting heavy damage on a number of residential buildings in the area.
Imad Mughniyeh, a notorious Hezbollah terror chief, was allegedly assassinated by Israel in a 2008 bombing in Kafar Sousah, close to where Saturday night’s strike took place.
If this geolocation is accurate, the #Damascus strike was almost exactly where Imad Mughniyeh was killed in 2008. Barely 100 metres to the west #Syria https://t.co/YKXA0oivJ9 pic.twitter.com/QZNbSIfk6L
— Alex Rowell (@alexjrowell) February 19, 2023
SANA claimed Syrian air defenses managed to intercept “most” of the missiles launched by IAF jets from over the Golan Heights in the strike. Syria regularly claims to intercept Israeli missiles, though military analysts doubt such assertions.
Though Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has acknowledged conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade.
The IDF says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror organization. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.