Syria accuses Israel of airstrikes in Damascus for second night in a row

State-run news agency claims air defenses intercepted ‘hostile missiles’ over capital but that damage was caused, less than 24 hours after similar attack wounded two soldiers

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Screen capture from a video showing an alleged Israeli strike on Damascus, Syria March 31, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter)
Screen capture from a video showing an alleged Israeli strike on Damascus, Syria March 31, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter)

The Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes in the Syrian capital Damascus shortly after midnight on Friday, for the second night in a row, according to Syria’s state-run media outlet.

The state news agency SANA reported that Syria’s air defenses intercepted the “hostile missiles” over the capital, though the “aggression” managed to cause some material damage. Damascus regularly claims to successfully intercept IDF strikes, but military analysts doubt these assertions.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the strike.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strikes targeted an arms depots for government forces and Iran-backed groups just south of Damascus.

Footage circulating on social media showed explosions in the sky, apparently from Syrian air defense missiles.

Less than 24 hours earlier, SANA said that the IAF targeted sites in Damascus, wounding two soldiers and causing material damage.

The conditions of the two soldiers were not immediately clear. In recent years, numerous Syrian soldiers serving in air defense units have been killed in Israeli airstrikes.

As a general rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but 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.

Thursday and Friday’s alleged airstrikes came after two attacks in recent weeks against the Aleppo International Airport, also attributed to Israel. Those attacks temporarily closed the airport’s runway.

One of the strikes last week also targeted an underground munitions depot at the adjacent Nairab military airport, according to two unnamed “regional intelligence sources” who spoke to the Reuters news agency. The sources said the site was used to store missile-guided systems that had been delivered by Iranian cargo flights.

Also this month, Israel carried out a rare daytime strike against targets in northwestern Syria, injuring three soldiers and causing damage, SANA said.

In January, the Syrian army said Israel’s military fired missiles toward the Damascus International Airport, putting it out of service temporarily and killing two soldiers. That attack came amid Israeli fears the Damascus airport was being used for funneling Iranian weaponry into the country.

AP contributed to this report

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