Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria overnight, attacking a weapons depot near Damascus and killing three Iran-backed paramilitary fighters, a war monitor said Thursday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has had its credibility questioned in the past, said the strikes targeted “military positions” near Damascus and “destroyed a weapons depot likely used by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia,” among other Iran-backed terror groups.
The group said the three killed were non-Syrian, but could not determine their nationalities.
Syrian state media reported four soldiers were wounded in the alleged Israeli strike, the latest in a series of raids attributed to the Jewish state.
The state-run SANA news agency said Syrian air defenses had engaged Israeli missiles near the capital Damascus, without giving details of the targets.
SANA said the Israeli missiles were fired from both the Israeli Golan Heights and Lebanese air space, wounding four soldiers and causing “some material losses.”
“Our air defenses intercepted the attack and shot down most of” the missiles, SANA cited a military source as saying. Defense analysts routinely dismiss such claims by the Syrian regime as empty boasts.
One of the Syrian air defense missiles exploded near the Lebanon-Syria border and was heard in parts of southern Lebanon and northern Israel, according to reports from both sides of the border. Al-Manar TV, which is affiliated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, said the missile crashed near the Lebanese border village of Houla.
The Israel Defense Forces did not comment on the late-night strikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria, save for those launched in retaliation for an attack from Israel’s northern neighbor.
This was the first reported Israeli strike in almost a month, since an alleged strike on reported weapons depots near the Damascus airport.
In February Israeli strikes also reportedly targeted the area of Damascus International Airport, through which Iran had allegedly been flying advanced munitions, as well as military sites around the Damascus suburb of el-Kisweh, a long-time base of Iranian operations.
The strikes came days after drones reportedly bombed a shipment of advanced weapons that were being transported through Iraq into eastern Syria by Iranian proxies.
The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.
Tensions have been high in the Middle East in recent months as Iran and the US jockey for position ahead of nuclear negotiations.
A series of incidents at sea have also turned up the heat.
Israel and Iran have accused each other recently of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. The vessels in each case were only lightly damaged and there were no reported injuries in the incidents.
On Tuesday morning, limpet mines were reportedly detonated on the MV Saviz, a cargo ship off the coast of Yemen that has been allegedly used for years by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a command-and-control center for its operations in the region. An American official attributed the strike to Israeli commandos.