Syria says 5 soldiers hurt in Israeli airstrikes on several targets near Homs

State-run news agency claims air defenses intercepted some missiles coming from direction of Beirut in 3rd recent night of strikes; military base among sites reportedly hit

Smoke rises after an alleged Israeli strike near Homs, Syria, April 1, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Smoke rises after an alleged Israeli strike near Homs, Syria, April 1, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out airstrikes near the city of Homs late Saturday, injuring five soldiers, according to Syria’s state-run media outlet.

The alleged operation came after airstrikes attributed to Israel were carried out in the Syrian capital Damascus shortly after midnight in the early hours of Friday, for the second night in a row.

Footage circulating on social media showed explosions and smoke billowing in the sky early Saturday.

The state news agency SANA reported that Syria’s air defenses intercepted some of the missiles, although the “aggression” managed to injure five soldiers and caused “material losses.” Syria regularly claims to successfully intercept IDF strikes, but military analysts doubt these assertions.

A Syrian military source told SANA that “at about 00:35 in the morning, the Israeli enemy carried out an air aggression from the direction north-east of Beirut, targeting some points in the city of Homs and its countryside.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said explosions were heard at a few sites including the Syrian military airport at al-Dabaa near Homs, and a fire broke out at a scientific research facility in another area. The organization said the strikes targeted several Syrian military positions and Iranian-backed militia.

Western intelligence sources told Reuters the strikes hit a series of air bases in central Syria where Iranian personnel are based.

The two sources said the strikes targeted the Tiyas air base, also known as T-4, located near the ancient city of Palmyra in the Homs Governorate, and the al-Dabaa airport near the city of al-Qusayr also in the Homs Governorate, near the Lebanese border. It is an area known for the presence of members of Lebanese Hezbollah, a major terror organization backed by Iran, and other pro-Iranian groups and militias.

T-4 is believed to be one of two major airports — the other being Damascus International Airport — where Iranian cargo airlines carrying large weapons set for Lebanon often land. The weaponry is then believed to be stored in warehouses in the area before being trucked to Lebanon.

Saturday’s airstrikes came a day after Syrian media said Israeli airstrikes hit in the capital Damascus for the second time this week. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those strikes targeted an arms depots for government forces and Iran-backed groups just south of Damascus.

On the previous night, 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 Hezbollah. 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.

AP contributed to this report.

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