At least three fighters allied with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were reportedly killed in pre-dawn Israeli airstrikes south of Damascus.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday night’s attack targeted Iranian positions, killing at least three foreign pro-regime combatants. According to the Britain-based a war-monitoring organization, the fatalities were also most likely Iranians.
Four cruise missiles were believed to have been launched toward Syria across the Mediterranean coast through the airspace of neighboring Lebanon, according to a source in the regional alliance supporting Assad. The Lebanese daily Al Akhbar newspaper cited eyewitnesses reports of spotting the missiles offshore in Syria and the Golan Heights. Residents in Lebanon said they heard Israeli warplanes could be heard flying in the country’s airspace at the time of the airstrikes in Syria, while those in Damascus reported that explosions could be heard near the Syrian capital.
The country’s SANA state news agency claimed that just before midnight on Sunday, the Syrian military’s air defense system opened fire and intercepted “hostile missiles” incoming from “the Occupied Territories” – in apparent reference to Israel. According to the report, one missile came down in Aqraba, southeast of Damascus. The army said it downed one of the missiles in an area near the capital but provided no further details.
Syrian state TV reported the other missile hit the nearby town of Sayyida Zeinab about 10 kilometers south of Damascus, where Al Akhbar said several arms depots were targeted.
There has been no public claim of responsibility from Jerusalem. When asked for a response, the IDF Spokesman’s Unit reiterated Israel’s policy of refusing to comment on reports in foreign media.
Jerusalem has long maintained that Assad’s allies in his state’s civil war, Tehran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, have been working feverishly to create a new front in the Arab Republic against Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly to take any action necessary to prevent efforts by the Islamic Republic to establish a permanent military presence just over the Jewish State’s northern frontier, and prevent delivery of Iranian arms shipments to the region.
In recent years the IDF has launched hundreds of attacks against Iranian targets and pro-Tehran militias operating in Syria and weapons convoys en route to Syria and Lebanon from Tehran – some of which have been confirmed by Israel. In November Israel announced that it conducted a “wide-scale” operation against Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation to rocket fire on the Golan Heights the previous day. According to the Observatory, fatalities inflicted in Israeli missile strikes this year include 21 pro-regime fighters including 16 foreigners on November 20, six Iranians and three pro-regime Syrian fighters in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra in July, and two Hezbollah terrorists and one Iranian soldier in Aqraba this past August.