Israel fired several missiles early today, targeting areas near Syrian capital Damascus. An opposition war-monitoring group in Syria said the strikes had killed six Iran-backed fighters.
News agency SANA reported that Syrian air defences had shot down most of the missiles, which it said were fired from Syria‘s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor with a network of activists on the ground, said the strikes had hit positions of the Syrian Army’s Fourth Division in the mountains near the highway that links Damascus with Lebanese capital Beirut. It said another strike had hit Syrian Army positions in Kisweh, just south of Damascus.
The observatory said that four of the six Iran-backed fighters killed were near the Damascus-Beirut highway and two in Kisweh. Israel struck weapons depots in both areas, it said.
Israel has fired hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but it rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line. The Jewish country has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
Monday’s strike was the first since 3 February, when a Syrian military official said Israel fired surface-to-surface missiles at targets in southern Syria, causing only material damage.
In a statement to state media, Syria confirmed that Israeli warplanes had flown over the Golan Heights and struck areas outside Damascus.
“Our air defences are continuing to repel the Israeli missile attacks over the skies of the capital,” the Syrian army said in a statement.
An Israeli army spokesperson said it “cannot comment on these reports” when contacted by AFP.
A Syrian army defector said that the Israelis had hit an army division in the town of Al Kiswah, near Damascus, which has a large presence of Iranian-backed forces. Witnesses said that they had heard large explosions in southern Damascus.