Israeli air strikes hit central Syria, eleven killed
DAMASCUS --Israeli air strikes in central Syria killed at least 11 government troops and pro-Iranian militiamen late Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The strikes were the first carried out by Israel in Syria since 11 days of heavy fighting with the Hamas rulers of Gaza ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on May 21, the Britain-based war monitor said.
“At least seven army soldiers and four National Defence Forces militiamen were killed,” Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP, adding that all of the dead were Syrian.
The Britain-based war monitor said the strikes targeted air force positions near the village of Khirbet al-Tin on the outskirts of Homs, as well as an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.
The Israeli air force carried out overnight strikes in several regions of Syria, in the capital Damascus as well as in Homs, Hama and Latakia provinces, the Observatory said.
Syria’s state SANA news agency said there had been “explosions in Damascus” as Israeli forces carried out the raid from Lebanese air space.
It said air defences had been activated against the “Israeli aggression” but said nothing about any casualties or damage.
The Israeli army, which rarely acknowledges individual strikes on Syria, declined to comment on “reports in the foreign media”.
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Syrian territory, targeting government positions as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.
Israel has said repeatedly that it will not allow neighbouring Syria to become a launchpad for its arch foe Iran.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. If confirmed, this would be the first such missile raid in about a month. Pre-dawn raids struck the Mediterranean port city of Latakia close to a Russian air base on May 5.
Western intelligence sources said Israel’s stepped-up strikes on Syria since last year are part of a shadow war approved by the United States. The strikes are also part of an anti-Iran policy that in the last two years has undermined Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.
The intelligence sources said that Israel has over the past year expanded its targets across Syria, where thousands of Iranian-backed militias have been involved in regaining much of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar al Assad to insurgents in a nearly decade-old civil war.