Syrian state media reports blasts near Damascus airport
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Syrian state media reports blasts near Damascus airport

Monitoring group and Russian outlet say missiles hit area near where four rockets were fired earlier at Israel; others cast doubt on veracity on the reports

Illustrative. This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows missiles flying into the sky near the international airport in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)
Illustrative. This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows missiles flying into the sky near the international airport in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)

Explosions were heard in Syria near Damascus International Airport early on Tuesday morning, the official SANA news agency reported. The agency gave no further details, but the Israeli army had announced moments before that it had intercepted rockets fired from Syria.

Some Syrian outlets speculated that the blasts were an Israeli airstrike, while others said it may have been the sound of the rockets being launched at Israel.

Israel refuses to comment on the specifics of its operations against Iran in Syria.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing Syrian sources, said that four or five missiles hit sites south and southwest of the capital near where four rockets were launched minutes earlier at Israel.

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias are active in the area, the sources said.

The Russian Sputnik news agency, also citing a source in Syria, said the missiles came from the direction of the Lebanese-Syrian border region of the Golan Heights and claimed that Syrian air defense intercepted most of the projectiles.

The explosions apparently came minutes after Israel’s anti-missile defense system intercepted the four rockets fired from neighboring Syria toward the Golan Heights.

“No hits on Israeli communities were identified,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

A picture taken on April 9, 2018, shows an Iron Dome missile defense battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed on the Golan Heights near the border with Syria. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The incident came a week after Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist in Damascus, Akram al-Ajouri, killing his son and another person. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of being behind the strike in Damascus. The Israeli army refused to comment.

On the same day, an Israeli airstrike killed Islamic Jihad military commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, whom Israel blamed for recent rocket fire into its territory, in a strike on his home in Gaza City. Around 450 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the military operation against Abu Al-Ata, according to the Israeli army. A ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad was reached after 50 hours of clashes, but the deal remains precarious.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and expertise.

Israel has reportedly hit targets in Damascus airport and the surrounding area many times in the past.

In August, in a rare announcement, the IDF said it had targeted sites in the town of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, near the city’s airport to foil what it said was an imminent armed drone attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters.

In January Israel was said to have conducted a daylight missile attack on Iranian targets at the airport. Iran responded by firing a surface-to-surface missile at the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over the Mount Hermon ski resort, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

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