Syria says 5 killed, 15 wounded in Israeli strike on Damascus residential area

Heavy damage inflicted to buildings in Kafar Sousah neighborhood, an area said to house Iranian sites; state-run news agency says victims mostly civilians

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

The scene of an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Kafar Sousah neighborhood of Syria's capital, Damascus, early February 19, 2023. (Social media)
The scene of an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Kafar Sousah neighborhood of Syria's capital, Damascus, early February 19, 2023. (Social media)

The Israeli Air Force allegedly carried out a strike late Saturday night targeting a residential neighborhood in Damascus, killing five people and leaving 15 others hurt, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces, in line with its policy of not generally commenting on air raids in the country. Israeli officials have previously said the IDF does not target civilians and seeks to avoid damage to residential areas as much as possible.

According to the Reuters news agency, the strike targeted an area in the Kafar Sousah neighborhood in the Syrian capital, near a large and heavily guarded security complex and close to Iranian installations.

Orient News, a Syrian opposition media outlet, claimed the strikes targeted Iranian militia officials at the so-called Iranian school in Kafar Sousah.

SANA, citing a military source, said four civilians and one soldier were killed, and another 15 civilians were wounded in the strike. It said several of those wounded were listed in critical condition.

Some unconfirmed Syrian media reports put the death toll higher.

The airstrike also inflicted heavy damage to a number of residential buildings in Kafar Sousah, SANA said.

Images and video from the Damascus neighborhood showed heavy damage to several buildings.

Reuters said there are several multi-story security buildings located within Kafar Sousah.

Imad Mughniyeh, a notorious Hezbollah terror chief, was allegedly assassinated by Israel in a 2008 bombing in Kafar Sousah, close to where Saturday’s strike took place.

Separately, the Israeli jets targeted Iranian and Syrian regime military sites near the Damascus International Airport, as well as in Sitt Zaynab and al-Kiswah, a town and a city just south of the capital, Orient News said.

The outlet also claimed the damage to the residential buildings in Kafar Sousah was caused by a misfired Syrian anti-aircraft missile.

SANA claimed Syrian air defenses managed to intercept “most” of the missiles launched by IAF jets from over the Golan Heights in the strike. Syria regularly claims to intercept Israeli missiles, though military analysts doubt such assertions.

Footage from northern Israel appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile exploding over the Golan Heights.

The strike was later condemned by Russia, a key backer of the Syrian regime in the over decade-long civil war, which called the attack a “flagrant violation” of international law. Israel’s need to coordinate with Russia — which controls Syrian airspace — to carry out strikes has been cited as a chief reason for Jerusalem’s reluctance to supply Kyiv with weaponry amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We strongly urge the Israeli side to stop armed provocations against the Syrian Arab Republic and refrain from steps that are fraught with dangerous consequences for the entire region,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to Reuters.

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

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

Last week, the Saudi-owned Elaph news site cited an Israeli military official as saying if Iran ships weapons to its regional proxies under the guise of humanitarian aid to Syria following the major earthquake there, the IDF would not hesitate to strike.

The unnamed official said “there is information indicating that Iran will take advantage of the tragic situation in Syria” and ship weapons to Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups in Syria.

Several Iranian cargo planes carrying aid have landed in Syria since a major earthquake struck the country and areas in southeast Turkey on February 6.

In recent years, several airstrikes against alleged Iranian weapon shipments disguised as seemingly harmless products have been attributed to Israel, including one incident last month.

Generally, relatively large weapons are thought to be smuggled via Syria on Iranian cargo airlines, which frequently land at Damascus International and the Tiyas, or T-4, airbase, outside of the central Syrian city of Palmyra.

The weaponry is then believed to be stored in warehouses in the area before being transported to Lebanon.

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