Israeli airstrikes said to hit targets near Damascus

Attack appears to be connected to efforts by IDF to prevent Iran from transporting weapons to its proxies; Syrian opposition group says 9 pro-regime fighters killed in the blasts

By JUDAH ARI GROSS and TOI STAFFToday, 1:57 amUpdated at 10:32 am  2

A purported Israeli airstrike near Damascus, Syria on February 15, 2021 (Screencapture/Twitter)

A purported Israeli airstrike near Damascus, Syria on February 15, 2021 (Screencapture/Twitter)

Israeli airstrikes targeted a number of sites in southern Syria after midnight Sunday, Syrian state media reported, in the latest in a series of attacks attributed to the Jewish state.

The attack came amid a reported uptick in efforts by Iran to transfer advanced weapons to its proxies in the region through Syria.

The strikes hit facilities in the area of Damascus International Airport, through which Iran has reportedly been flying advanced munitions — most recently on Saturday — as well as military sites around the Damascus suburb of el-Kisweh, a long-time base of Iranian operations.

The strikes came days after drones reportedly bombed a shipment of advanced weapons that were being transported through Iraq into eastern Syria by Iranian proxies.

The Britain-based pro-opposition group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least nine pro-regime militia fighters were killed in the predawn strikes on Monday. This casualty count could not be independently verified and was not reported by other Syrian sources. The Observatory has regularly been accused by Syrian war analysts of inflating casualty numbers, as well as inventing them wholesale.

The state-run SANA news agency reported that explosions were heard to the west of Damascus and that Syrian air defenses were “confronting the Israeli aggression.”

Shortly after midnight, “the Israeli enemy launched an assault, firing missiles from the occupied Golan and Galilee,” SANA reported, citing a military source.

The strikes were aimed at targets near Damascus, the source said, adding that defenses shot down “most” of the missiles. Most Syrian war analysts consider these boasts of successful interceptions by the Syrian military — which come after nearly every reported Israeli strike — to be empty boasts.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the late-night strikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria, save for those launched in retaliation for an attack from Israel’s northern neighbor.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

The reported attacks came 10 days after Israel was accused of hitting targets on the Syrian Golan Heights and at the Damascus International Airport.

AFP contributed to this report.

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