Syrian air defense respond to suspected Israeli attack

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Syrian air defenses “intercepted hostile targets” west of Damascus on Tuesday night, Syrian state media SANA reported.

There were reports of loud explosions through the Syrian capital and videos shared on social media showed Syrian surface-to-air missiles being fired into the sky. SANA said “most” of the incoming fire was shot down and three Syrian soldiers were injured. 

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Israeli air raids targeted Iranian and Hezbollah arms warehouses.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted … arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” the head of the Syrian Observatory Abdel Rahman said.

The Israeli Defense Forces said later that an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria was intercepted by Israeli air defense systems.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the Israeli military said on Twitter.

The Lebanese National News Agency said Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon to carry out the raids outside Damascus. Citing a military official, SANA said the suspected Israeli missiles were launched “from over Lebanese territories.”

There was no confirmation from the Israeli military of an attack on Syria.

Netanyahu vows to hit Iran

The suspected Israeli attacks come two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the US withdrawal of some 2,000 troops from northeast Syria would not change Israel’s policy of targeting Iranian forces in Syria.

“The decision to remove the 2,000 US soldiers from Syria won’t change our consistent policy,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “We will continue to act against Iran’s attempt to establish a military presence in Syria, and if the need arises, we will even expand our activities there.”

The Russia factor

Israel has carried out scores of air raids on suspected Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, where they are backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Israel has been constrained from carrying out attacks in Syria since October when Russia provided Syria with its S-300 air defense system.

That came after the September 17 downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli airstrike. The friendly fire incident stoked tensions between Russia and Israel, which generally have good relations and have had a degree of understanding over Syria.

Israeli airstrikes are viewed in Moscow as potentially destabilizing for Syria, where Russia seeks to consolidate the Assad regime’s gains in the country’s civil war. At the same time, analysts say that Russia understands Israel’s security concerns over the entrenchment of Iran on its doorstep.

Earlier this year, Russia played a mediating role in ensuring Iran and Iran-backed forces were held back from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as the Syrian army retook the southwest of the country from rebel groups.

cw/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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