Satellite images show the extent of damage from an alleged Israeli strike in Syria this week, with one photo indicating that a large storage facility was completely destroyed, an Israeli satellite imaging company said Thursday.
The photos, taken December 26 and published by ImageSat International, were of the remains of an Iranian warehouse at a base belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th division and located west of the capital Damascus, the company said. The 900-square-meter (8,000 square foot) structure appeared to have been obliterated by the attack, it said.
However, by contrast, the images showed no evidence of an attack at Damascus airport. Initial media reports of the airstrike had speculated that a 747 cargo jet, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had been targeted after it landed at the airport.
The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group that fought Israel in a 2006 war, and media speculated that its cargo had been the target of the strikes.
An Israeli security official confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that Israel carried out the overnight airstrike in Syria, saying a series of Iranian targets were hit.
The official said the air force had attacked several Iranian targets in three main locations late Tuesday and early Wednesday. He said the targets were primarily storage and logistics facilities used by archenemy Iran to ship weapons to Hezbollah.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity under standard security protocols. The Israeli military has not commented on the incident.
Earlier Wednesday, Russia criticized the airstrikes, saying they had endangered civilian flights. The Israeli official said, however, that Israel alerted Russia about the airstrikes ahead of time and the flights were endangered by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the Syrian air defense forces shot down 14 of the 16 precision-guided bombs dropped by the Israeli jets, while the remaining two hit a Syrian military depot 7 kilometers (about 4 miles) west of Damascus, injuring three Syrian soldiers.
But the Israeli official said all targets had been hit, in some cases causing secondary explosions.
Israel has previously confirmed carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria, mostly believed to be aimed at suspected weapons shipments to Hezbollah.
According to Syrian state media, the strikes began around 10 p.m. Tuesday and were carried out by Israel from Lebanon. It said Syria’s air defenses opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said the strike targeted three positions south of Damascus that are arms depots for Hezbollah and Iranian forces.
Newsweek reported Wednesday morning that the alleged Israeli airstrike hit several senior Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane bound for Iran, citing a US Defense Department source. The unnamed source told the magazine he had received the information from top Israeli military brass, and said strategic Iranian munitions were also targeted, including advanced GPS components for weaponry.
That report was later denied by Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen, widely regarded as pro-Hezbollah, which said no senior members of the terror group were hurt.
Syrian media said Wednesday morning that Israel hit a base used by Hezbollah in Al-Dimas, a weapons depot at a base belonging to the Syrian army’s 4th division in Sabura and the military’s 10th Division command in Qatana.
Israel said Tuesday it deployed its own air defenses against a missile fired from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel the alleged airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.
Lebanon’s acting Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos later on Wednesday said the Lebanese government will present a complaint to the UN Security Council.
The Syrian military didn’t fully engage its air defense assets to avoid accidentally hitting the passenger jets, Konashenkov said. He added that Syrian air traffic controllers redirected the Damascus-bound plane to a Russian air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.
Moscow blamed Israel after Syrian anti-aircraft fire aimed at an Israeli jet downed a Russian spy plane in October, sending ties between Jerusalem and the Kremlin into a tailspin. Russia claimed the Israeli jet had used the lumbering sply plane for cover, a charge Israel denied.
Israeli bombing campaigns in Syria had seemingly been curbed since the October incident as Moscow and Jerusalem worked to re-establish a deconfliction method.