Syria says Israeli airstrikes hit sites around Damascus

Attack struck targets south and west of capital, which have been reportedly bombed by IDF in the past, according to state media; unverified reports of 3 Iran-backed fighters killed

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: A Syrian anti-aircraft missile is fired into sky near Damascus during an alleged Israeli airstrike on January 6, 2021. (Screen capture: SANA)
Illustrative: A Syrian anti-aircraft missile is fired into sky near Damascus during an alleged Israeli airstrike on January 6, 2021. (Screen capture: SANA)

Israeli airstrikes targeted a number of sites around Damascus, Syrian media reported late Wednesday night.

According to Syrian outlets, the attacks struck the area of el-Kisweh, south of the capital, and around the town of al-Dimas, west of Damascus.

Both areas have been used as bases of operation for Iranian forces in Syria, as well as Iranian-backed militias. Both have also reportedly been targeted by Israel in the past.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-Syrian opposition organization, claimed the strikes killed three Iran-backed fighters. The claim could not be verified and was not reported by other sources in Syria. The group has regularly been accused by Syrian war analysts of inflating casualty numbers, as well as inventing them wholesale.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the late-night strikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria, save for those in retaliation for an attack from the country.

Syria’s state media outlet SANA reported that the attacks began shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday.

“The Israeli enemy carried out an air attack by means of a barrage of missiles from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan on some targets in the southern region,” SANA reported, citing a military source.

Residents of the Israeli Golan Heights reported hearing the sounds of explosions.

The airstrikes came two days after an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps delegation reportedly visited the country.

In response to the attack, the Syrian military fired a large number of surface-to-air missiles and other anti-aircraft weapons into the sky. The military source told SANA that most of the incoming Israeli missiles were intercepted. Such claims by the Syrian military are generally disregarded by Syrian war analysts, who consider them false, empty boasts.

The attack on Thursday night came eight days after a round of airstrikes on an Iranian target in western Syria and a Syrian military air defense battery, which killed one Syrian soldier and injured several others.

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.

The last reported strikes in Syria attributed to Israel took place earlier last month near the town of Masyaf in the central Hama province. The airstrikes destroyed four weapons manufacturing facilities, according to satellite images released by a private Israeli intelligence firm.

Masyaf is a significant military area for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime that includes a military academy and a scientific research center. The general area around Masyaf, which is also believed to have a major Iranian presence, has reportedly been targeted by Israel many times in the past.

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