Israel said to strike targets near Damascus
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Israel said to strike targets near Damascus

Syria claims to intercept all missiles, but an independent monitor says some of them hit near Jamraya, a site linked to chemical weapons production

A Google Earth view of a Syrian scientific facility in Jamraya, near Damascus, before it was allegedly struck by Israeli warplanes in late January 2013. (photo credit: image capture from Google Earth)
A Google Earth view of a Syrian scientific facility in Jamraya, near Damascus, before it was allegedly struck by Israeli warplanes in late January 2013. (photo credit: image capture from Google Earth)

Syrian air defense systems intercepted an Israeli air attack on a military position near the capital Damascus early Wednesday, the Syria army said.

“This morning, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles from Lebanese airspace on one of our military positions in the Damascus countryside,” said an army statement carried by state media. “Our air defense systems blocked them and destroyed most of them.”

An AFP correspondent in Damascus heard loud blasts around 3:30 a.m..

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said at least some Israeli missiles had hit military targets near Damascus.

“Syria’s air defense system blocked some of the missiles, but others hit ammunition depots near Jamraya,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

An Israel Air Force F-16, December 31, 2015 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Jamraya, which lies just over 10 kilometers (seven miles) northwest of Damascus, is home to several military positions and a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).

The US has repeatedly imposed sanctions on the SSRC for its alleged role in chemical weapons production. France has also imposed sanctions on the agency.

An Israeli airstrike reportedly hit the facility in May 2013 and another hit an SSRC branch in western Syria in September.

According to unconfirmed reports, Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Syrian armed forces and their allies since the civil war broke out there in 2011.

As in previous cases of reported Israeli attacks in Syria, the IDF on Wednesday did not comment.

Israel has maintained a public policy of limited intervention in the Syrian civil war. The prime minister and senior defense officials have said that the country only takes action in Syria when a “red line” is crossed, generally meaning in retaliation to deliberate or accidental attacks on Israel from southern Syria or when advanced weapons are being transferred to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group.

There have, however, been reports of additional Israeli actions that do not appear to have been in response to a violated “red line,” including in attacks against suspected chemical weapons facilities.

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