Israel struck several sites near Damascus early Monday, killing two civilians and causing material damage, Syrian state TV reported.
The 5 a.m. strike marked the first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow for a surprise meeting he said was intended to help broker a ceasefire.
Russia is allied with Syria’s regime and allows Israel to carry out operations against targets in the country. Israel’s attempts at neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been described as necessary to safeguard its relatively unfettered access to Syria’s skies.
Monday’s report from Syria’s SANA news agency, citing a military official, said the Israeli jets launched their missiles from over neighboring Lebanon, near Beirut.
The official said most of the incoming missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defenses, an often-heard claim that can rarely be independently verified.
It added that two civilians were killed and that the strikes caused material damage to the sites near the capital. It did not say how the civilians were killed and gave no further details.
— الوكالة العربية السورية للأنباء – سانا (@SanaAjel) March 7, 2022
As a rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country.
Israel last struck in Syria on February 24, mere hours before Moscow launched its assault on Ukraine. Three Syrian soldiers were killed in that strike, Damascus said.
Bennett has refrained from antagonizing Russia by refusing to condemn Moscow by name and resisting Ukrainian pleas for arms or defensive equipment. Bennett has described the strategy as necessary to keep Israel as a neutral broker, while expressing sympathy for Ukraine and sending humanitarian aid. Other officials have noted that Israel’s national security depends on being able to continue hitting Iran-backed forces in Syria.
Israel has acknowledged that it targets the bases of Iranian forces and Iran-allied terror groups, particularly along the Golan border, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has fighters deployed in southern Syria. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups.
Last month Israel also allegedly fired surface-to-surface missiles at an observation post and “finance building” near the border town of Quneitra on the Syrian Golan Heights.
Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report