Israel said to hit Iranian targets in Syria after Tehran blamed for ship blast


Syrian state media claims air defenses shot down several missiles; Hebrew media outlets indicate raid a retaliation for explosion that hit Israeli-owned vessel in Gulf of Oman

By TOI STAFF28 February 2021, 11:07 pmUpdated at 11:57 pm  4

Footage from Syrian state media said to show air defense missiles being fired near Damascus in response to Israeli strikes, February 28, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Footage from Syrian state media said to show air defense missiles being fired near Damascus in response to Israeli strikes, February 28, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Syrian state media reported Sunday that air defense systems were activated around Damascus due to an Israeli attack. A report carried on the official SANA news agency claimed the Syrian military intercepted several Israeli missiles.

There was no comment on the reported strikes from the Israel Defense Forces, which rarely acknowledges specific attacks.

Israel’s Kan News, Channel 13 News and Ma’ariv newspaper all described the strikes as targeting Iranian sites, and characterized them as a response to a blast last week that hit an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman, which Israeli officials have said was likely carried out by Iran.

None of the outlets provided sourcing for their reports.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor which has had its credibility questioned in the past, said the strike hit the area of Sayyida Zeinab south of Damascus, where the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah are present.

Kan had earlier reported that leaders of Israel’s security establishment met on Sunday evening to discuss the alleged Iranian attack on the MV Helios Ray.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday he believed Iran was behind the explosion Thursday. On Sunday IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi called the explosion that hit the Helios Ray a “reminder” from Iran.

“This is the place to reiterate that the IDF acts and will act against the threats that endanger [Israel], near and far,” he said during a ceremony.

Israel has launched hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, most of which were directed against Iran and its proxies. The last attack in Syria attributed to the Jewish state was on February 15.

The latest reported strike also came after the US military launched strikes Thursday on Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria, in retaliation for a recent rocket attack in Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition troops.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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