Syria says Israeli missile strikes hit targets near Damascus

State media says surface-to-surface rockets launched from northern Israel caused ‘material damage,’ no casualties; attack comes days after rare daytime strike in same region

By JUDAH ARI GROSS and TOI STAFFToday, 3:38 am  

Illustrative: A Syrian anti-aircraft missile is fired into sky near Damascus during an alleged Israeli airstrike on January 6, 2021. (Screen capture: SANA)

Illustrative: A Syrian anti-aircraft missile is fired into sky near Damascus during an alleged Israeli airstrike on January 6, 2021. (Screen capture: SANA)

The Israeli military struck targets using surface-to-surface missiles near the Syrian capital of Damascus early Wednesday morning, Syrian media reported.

The SANA news agency said the missiles hit sites in the Zakia region outside Damascus and caused “material damage” shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday. The outlet gave no details on the targets that were hit, and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Syrian media reported that the strike was carried out with surface-to-surface missiles fired from northern Israel, similar to an alleged Israeli attack conducted earlier this week.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces, in line with its policy of ambiguity regarding its activities in Syria.

Israel’s alleged use of surface-to-surface missiles — in place of munitions fired from aircraft — has been linked to a recent meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s main allies who has supplied much of Damascus’s air defense system. To avoid embarrassing Russia and its military technology, Israel reportedly agreed to rely less on airstrikes, which had repeatedly defeated the Russian batteries.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

The reported strike comes some three days after the Israeli military bombed a number of locations surrounding Damascus in a rare daytime strike, according to Syrian media, reportedly targeting advanced weapons heading to the Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies.

SANA said those strikes were carried out using surface-to-surface missiles fired from northern Israel and that explosions were heard in the countryside surrounding the Syrian capital.

Strikes were reported in the areas of al-Dimas, Qudsaya and al-Mezzah military air base — all located west of Damascus. Although not unheard of, daytime strikes on Syrian targets are relatively rare.

The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group of unclear funding, said Saturday’s raid killed at least five pro-Iranian fighters and wounded others. The nationalities of the people killed were not immediately known.

According to the Observatory and Syrian media reports, the strike targeted advanced weaponry and ammunition depots belonging to Hezbollah, Iranian forces and allied militias.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces, in line with its policy of only publicly acknowledging strikes that are in response to attacks from Syria.

The targets of the strike were all located in areas known to host Syrian air defenses as well as arms warehouses.

Israeli officials have expressed increasing concern over the proliferation of Iranian-made surface-to-air missile systems in Syria, as well as the Syrian military’s improved air defense capabilities, which have made it more difficult for the IDF to operate over Syria.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria over the course of the country’s civil war, targeting what it says are suspected arms shipments believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

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