Syria says Israeli missiles attack close to Damascus airport
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Syria says Israeli missiles attack close to Damascus airport

Assad regime claims missiles shot down; attack reportedly targeted arms depot where weapons intended for Iranian forces or Hezbollah terror group

Illustrative: Missiles rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense position and other military bases, in Damascus, Syria, May 10, 2018. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)
Illustrative: Missiles rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense position and other military bases, in Damascus, Syria, May 10, 2018. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

An Israeli missile attack targeted the Syrian capital’s airport late Saturday, activating air defenses which shot down a number of the projectiles, state news agency SANA reported.

“Our air defenses responded to an Israeli missile attack on Damascus international airport and shot down a number of hostile missiles,” a military source said, quoted by SANA, which gave no immediate report of casualties or damage.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missile attack targeted an arms depot near the airport where new weapons recently arrived for the Iranians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

“The missiles, suspected to be Israeli, destroyed an arms warehouse near the Damascus international airport,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

He had no immediate information on casualties.

A correspondent for the SANA agency reported hearing sounds of explosions during the incident.

AFP’s correspondent in Damascus said a loud blast late Saturday was followed by several smaller explosions.

Video circulated online showed at least one explosion on the ground near Damascus.

Videos and images posted online by official Syrian state media showed air defenses appearing to intercept missiles.

In a shaky video, a small, bright explosion is seen in the night sky, with city lights in the distance.

Israel does not regularly comment on alleged strikes in Syria.

The IDF earlier this month acknowledged that it had conducted airstrikes against over 200 Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria since 2017, shedding light on its largely quiet activities across the border to prevent Tehran from establishing a permanent military presence in the war-torn country.

For years, Israel has been concerned that Iran was using opportunities presented by the Syrian civil war to entrench itself militarily in the country in order to further threaten the Jewish state — alongside the threat already posed by Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

Israel has vowed to prevent such a military presence, but officially remains mum on most of the military’s efforts to do so.

The 202 targets hit in the Israeli airstrikes since 2017 were mostly shipments of advanced weaponry, as well as military bases and infrastructure, which the IDF officials said drove Iranian forces to abandon some posts.

In addition, Jerusalem has tried to get the Islamic Republic out of Syria through diplomatic means by appealing to the two main power-brokers in the region: Russia and the United States.

While Russia does not seem to have accepted Israel’s demand for Iran to be completely removed from Syria, it has agreed to force the Islamic Republic’s forces and proxies to leave the areas closest to the border with Israel.

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