Syrian media reports Israeli airstrikes near western city of Hama

Family of four said killed during the attack, homes damaged in the area, but more likely from Syrian air defenses than Israeli munitions; fifth alleged strike in the past month

Syrian Air defenses respond to alleged Israeli missiles targeting south of the capital Damascus, on July 20, 2020. (AFP)
Illustrative: Syrian Air defenses respond to alleged Israeli missiles targeting south of the capital Damascus, on July 20, 2020. (AFP)

Israeli airstrikes targeted a site near the city of Hama in northwestern Syria in the predawn hours of Friday morning, Syrian media reported.

These were the first Israeli strikes against targets in Syria reported since US President Joe Biden entered office earlier this week and the fifth such alleged attack in the past month.

The nature of the target was not immediately known. Israel has reportedly bombed sites connected to Iran’s alleged missile production and transport efforts in the area of Hama before.

According to the official Syrian state news outlet SANA, a family of four was killed during the bombardment, which it referred to as “Israeli aggression,” and at least three homes were damaged on the outskirts of Hama.

The Syrian military did not explicitly say the deaths and destruction were caused by Israeli munitions, likely indicating that they were instead caused by Syrian surface-to-air missiles that misfired or from shrapnel. Syrian air defenses have caused the deaths of several Syrian civilians.

SANA quoted a military source as saying the attack had come from the direction of the city of Tripoli on Lebanon’s coast.

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.

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.

Friday’s strikes appeared to be the first such attacks during the Biden administration, which is expected to take a more conciliatory approach to Iran than its predecessor. At the same time, Israeli analysts do not anticipate Biden to prevent the Jewish state from striking Iranian military targets in Syria.

Tensions climbed ahead of the transition as the Trump administration and Iran traded threats and made accusations, and Iran carried out another significant breach of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers.

Israeli officials have also issued threats against Iran in recent weeks and warned against the US returning to the nuclear deal.

Earlier this month, massive Israeli airstrikes targeted a number of sites in Syria near the Iraq border, an area with a major Iranian military presence that is believed to be used by Tehran to move weapons throughout the region, Syrian media reported.

The strikes, which reportedly targeted more than 15 Iran-linked facilities, were the fourth reported attack by Israel against Iranian targets in Syria in weeks, a significant increase from the normal rate of such strikes.

Unverified reports said 57 fighters were killed.

A senior US intelligence official with knowledge of the attack told the Associated Press that the airstrikes were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States and targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used as part of the pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.

Last month, a series of airstrikes attributed to Israel hit four weapons manufacturing facilities near the town of Masyaf, also in the area of Hama.

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