ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Syria says soldier ‘severely wounded’ in Israeli airstrikes near Damascus

UK-based Syrian group reports hits on military warehouses belonging to Iran-backed militias; Syrian military source says attacks cause ‘material damage’

Illustrative: Missiles in the sky near the international airport, in Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019. (SANA, Syria's official news agency, via AP/ FIle)
Illustrative: Missiles in the sky near the international airport, in Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019. (SANA, Syria's official news agency, via AP/ FIle)

Israel carried out airstrikes near Damascus early Wednesday, wounding a Syrian soldier, state news agency SANA said.

During more than a decade of war in Syria, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on its territory, primarily targeting Iran-backed forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as well as Syrian army positions.

Explosions were heard in the Syrian capital early Wednesday, an AFP correspondent reported.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the targets were military warehouses belonging to Iranian militias near the Damascus airport and an area southwest of the capital.

The Observatory reported that “violent explosions” were heard in Damascus after midnight on Wednesday.

Footage and photos circulating on social media, said to be from the airstrikes, showed fire breaking out at one of the targeted sites.

“At around 1:05 am, the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights targeting several positions southwest of Damascus,” SANA cited a military source as saying.

The source did not provide details on the targets and said the strikes “severely wounded” a soldier and caused material damage.

Syria’s air defense intercepted some of the Israeli missiles, the source added. Syria regularly claims to intercept Israeli missiles, though military analysts doubt such assertions.

While Israel’s military does not as a rule comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country, over the last decade.

The Israeli military says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Many of the strikes have targeted a Hezbollah unit in Syria known as the Golan File, and other Iranian efforts to entrench themselves on Israel’s border with Syria, including one such strike in April.

Late last month, airstrikes in the Damascus area attributed to Israel reportedly targeted a training base used by Golan File members.

The base in the city of Dumayr, northeast of Damascus, was hit during a wave of nighttime strikes on targets in Syria’s capital and damage was caused to two warehouses in the attack, according to the Russian military. Russia is a close ally of Syria, has forces operating in the country, and provides Syria with air defenses that try and shoot down Israeli jets and missiles.

Israeli soldiers patrol the border fence with Syria, in southern Golan Heights, on January 29, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Golan File mostly involves collecting intelligence and recruiting operatives, but also has weaponry in its possession — namely explosives, light arms, machine guns, and antitank missiles, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The unit also made headlines last month after a Hezbollah operative in Syria tasked with enlisting locals to gather intelligence on Israel was reported by the Kan public broadcaster to have resumed activities, after lying low in response to Israel’s recent arrest of one of his spies.

Iran-backed Hezbollah, considered the most significant threat along Israel’s borders, is Lebanese but has become increasingly active in Syria since coming to the aid of Syrian President Bashar Assad during the civil war in the country.

According to the Observatory, Wednesday’s strike was Israel’s 18th time targeting sites on Syrian territory since the beginning of the year. Israel has hit over 40 targets in these strikes, including weapons and ammunition depots, military centers, and logistics, according to the group, a monitor organization that relies on a vast network of sources on the ground.

These attacks have killed at least 48 military personnel, including 18 Syrian soldiers, 18 non-Syrian fighters from Iran-backed groups, five members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and three Hezbollah men, according to the observatory’s tally.

The organization, run by a single person, has regularly been accused by Syrian war analysts of false reporting and inflating casualty numbers as well as inventing them wholesale.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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