New Israeli strikes in Syria said to target pro-Iranian bases
CAIRO/AMMAN--Israel struck targets in southern Syria on Wednesday in the third such attack in nearly 10 days, state TV reported as military defectors said the missiles targeted Lebanese Hezbollah bases.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) later said the Israeli raids targeted several positions south of Damascus and came two days after a delegation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) visited the area.
It added the overnight strikes by Israel in Syria left three fighters from Iran-backed groups dead.
But SOHR was not immediately able to provide the casualties’ nationalities.
A Syrian military spokesman said missiles flying over the Golan Heights targeted several locations and air defences downed several missiles. Live coverage showed a multi-storey building on fire.
“Our air defences responded to an aerial Israeli aggression … on some targets in the southern region,” state media quoted a Syrian army spokesman as saying.
Two military defectors said the strikes hit the Kisswa area in the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus and military bases used by Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Hezbollah group.
There was no immediate comment from an Israeli military spokesman but Israel’s Defence Force Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said last month the missile strikes had “slowed down Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.”
“We have struck over 500 targets this year, on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions,” Kochavi said in comments published in Israeli media.
The bases in eastern, central and southern Syria which Israel had hit in recent months are believed to have a strong presence of Iran-backed militias, according to intelligence sources and military defectors familiar with the locations.
Western intelligence sources say Israel’s stepped up strikes on Syria in the last few months are part of a shadow war approved by the United States and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.
They say that the past year has seen an expansion in the targets hit by Israel across Syria, where thousands of Iran-backed militias have been involved in regaining much of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar Assad to insurgents in a nearly decade old civil war.
The Jewish state has consistently vowed to prevent its arch-enemy Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria, where Tehran has backed Assad throughout the nearly decade-long war.
Israel and Syria, still technically at war, have a border along the Golan Heights, which the Jewish State has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967.
The Israeli army has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.
Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes, but has done so when responding to what it describes as aggression inside Israeli territory.
Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war, more than 387,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.