Syria says 4 pro-Iran fighters, 3 civilians dead in exchange of fire with Israel
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Syria says 4 pro-Iran fighters, 3 civilians dead in exchange of fire with Israel

Unclear if Syrian civilians were killed by shrapnel from Israeli missile or from country’s own air defenses; war monitor says Iranian buildings hit in strike

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A house that was hit by shrapnel during an alleged Israeli strike outside Damascus on April 27, 2020. (Syrian state media SANA)
A house that was hit by shrapnel during an alleged Israeli strike outside Damascus on April 27, 2020. (Syrian state media SANA)

Seven people — four pro-Iranian fighters and three Syrian civilians — were killed during an exchange of fire between the Israeli and Syrian militaries on Monday, according to reports from Syria.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, four pro-Iranian militiamen were killed in an airstrike attributed to Israel on the Mezzeh military airfield outside Damascus in the predawn hours of Monday morning.

The Observatory said a number of Iranian headquarters buildings were also destroyed in the attack.

In addition, Syrian state media SANA reported that three civilians were killed and four more injured by shrapnel, including a child, in communities outside Damascus during the exchange.

People look at a house that was hit by shrapnel during an alleged Israeli strike outside Damascus on April 27, 2020. (Social media)

SANA did not specify if the shrapnel came from the incoming missiles or from the Syrian military’s own air defenses.

The state news outlet reported that the fragments struck homes in the communities of al-Hujaira and al-Adliya outside Damascus.

Photographs shared on social media showed the damage caused to buildings in those areas.

Both Syria and the Observatory said Israel was behind the airstrikes, though Jerusalem has been mum on the matter. However, the attack came a day after Defense Minister Naftali Bennett hinted that the Israel Defense Forces was poised to take action in Syria.

“Keep your ears open. We’ve gone from a policy of blocking [Iran] to pushing it out,” Bennett told the 103FM radio station on Sunday.

The strike outside Damascus on Monday was the third attack on Iranian targets in Syria attributed to Israel in the past 10 days.

The Mezzeh airbase, reportedly used by Iranian forces in Syria, has been attacked several times in airstrikes attributed to Israel.

According to SANA, Israeli jets fired several of the missiles in the attack from Lebanese airspace, and they were intercepted. Syrian state media regularly claims that the country’s air defenses intercept incoming Israeli missiles, though those assertions are viewed as highly questionable.

Video posted to social media showed several anti-aircraft missiles being fired into the air, followed by loud explosions.

Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror group, but the IDF has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.

Last week Syria accused Israel of hitting targets near Homs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the targets were “military posts for Iranian militias in the Palmyra desert.”

A house that was hit by shrapnel during an alleged Israeli strike outside Damascus on April 27, 2020. (Syrian state media SANA)

On April 15, a car driven by several Hezbollah operatives was also targeted in a strike attributed to Israel as it made its way from Syria toward Lebanon. The passengers in the vehicle escaped after an apparent warning shot was first fired next to the car.

Jerusalem says Iran’s presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad, is a threat, as Tehran seeks to establish a permanent foothold along Israel’s northern borders. Israel has also threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from providing the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group with advanced weaponry, specifically precision-guided missiles.

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