Israeli strikes said to destroy Iranian, Hezbollah sites near Damascus
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Israeli strikes said to destroy Iranian, Hezbollah sites near Damascus

Bombings inflict heavy damage on weapons warehouses and military positions near airport and other areas, with casualties reported; Syria calls attack ‘heavy’

Illustrative: Flames rising after an attack in an area known to have numerous Syrian army military bases, in Kisweh, south of Damascus, released by Syria's official news agency on May 9, 2018. (SANA, via AP)
Illustrative: Flames rising after an attack in an area known to have numerous Syrian army military bases, in Kisweh, south of Damascus, released by Syria's official news agency on May 9, 2018. (SANA, via AP)

Massive Israeli airstrikes on Syria overnight Sunday-Monday destroyed weapons stores and military positions belonging to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, a war monitor said Monday.

The Israeli military said early Monday it was carrying out strikes against Iran’s Qud’s Forces, in a rare statement on its military activities in Syria.

“The Israeli missiles managed to destroy weapons depots and military posts of the Iranians and the Lebanese Hezbollah in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport and the area of Al-Kiswah and Jamraya,” the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said.

The monitor said there had been casualties and extensive damage, without providing details. A news site in the southern Syrian city of Suweida reported that eight soldiers had been brought to a local hospital with injuries sustained during the Israeli strikes, including two who died.

There was no immediate confirmation of casualties from Damascus. Syria’s state-run media described the attack as “heavy” and said Israel had launched “consecutive waves of guided missiles.” However, it claimed the majority of the missiles were shot down.

“Our air defenses responded effectively to an Israeli air attack targeting the southern region and prevented it from achieving any of its objectives,”SANA quoted a military source saying.

The airstrikes were the second attack on the airport and al-Kiswah in as many days, after a rare daytime attack attributed to Israel on Sunday morning. Both locations have been attacked by Israel in the past and are thought to house Iranian or Hezbollah assets.

“Warehouses containing weapons for Syrian regime ally Hezbollah and Iranian fighters are located in that area,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, said Sunday.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

Last year, the Israeli military said bases near al-Kiswah were used by pro-Iranian militias. An Iranian weapons depot at the airport was targeted in an airstrike a week and a half ago, Israel said.

Jamraya, which has also allegedly been attacked by Israel in the ast, is thought to house a military facility and scientific research center.

A Google Earth view of a Syrian scientific facility in Jamraya, near Damascus, before it was allegedly struck by Israeli warplanes in late January. (photo credit: image capture from Google Earth)
A Google Earth view of a Syrian scientific facility in Jamraya, near Damascus, before it was allegedly struck by Israeli warplanes in late January 2013. (photo credit: image capture from Google Earth)

The Israeli attack early Monday was widely seen as a response to a surface to surface missile fired at Israel Sunday, apparently in retaliation for the earlier airstrikes.

Israel intercepted the missile near the Mount Hermon ski resort, but on Monday said it would shut the site, apparently signaling fears violence could continue to escalate.

For years, Israel has conducted airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, which it considers threats to national security. However, those attacks typically take place under the cover of darkness.

Sunday’s strike appeared to be the first major attacks carried out by the Israel Defense Forces since Aviv Kohavi took over as chief of staff last week.

The alleged strike Sunday came hours after a Syrian cargo plane touched down in the Damascus International Airport from Tehran, according to publicly available flight data. Israel and American defense officials have said these types of ostensibly civilian cargo planes are often used to transport advanced weaponry from Tehran to pro-Iranian militias, fighting in Syria, including the Hezbollah terror group.

Satellite image allegedly showing damage to buildings at Damascus International Airport caused by a May 11 Israeli airstrike, released by ImageSat International, on May 13, 2018. (ImageSat International)

Another flight from Iran, flown by Tehran’s Mahan Air carrier, was en route to Syria on Sunday afternoon, but turned back following the reported Israeli strikes, according to flight data. Mahan Air has been identified by defense officials as one of the cargo carriers suspected of ferrying war materiel from Iran to Syria. As a result, it is subject to sanctions by the US Treasury Department.

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