By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
In a rare daytime attack, the Syrian Armed Forces (SAF) said Israeli missiles hit targets near the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday. This, following earlier claims that significant material damage was sustained at several military sites northwest of Damascus following strikes by unidentified aircraft just after midnight last Friday.
Syria’s aerial defense array was deployed but apparently failed to foil either attack.
One SAF soldier sustained fatal injuries and material damage was caused near the Damascus International Airport. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the targets included “positions of Iranian-backed militia and regime forces in Dimas area and its vicinity in western Rif Dimashq.”
Separate reports note that a suspected Iranian weapons shipment was also struck near the airport.
The IDF spokesperson’s Unit did not confirm or deny involvement in either attack in response to TV7’s request for comment.
Regional diplomatic and intelligence sources believe Israel has recently intensified strikes on Syrian airports to disrupt Iran’s increasing use of aerial supply lines to deliver arms to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon, including the Hezbollah terror group. Tehran has increasingly turned to aerial transport as a more reliable means of shipping arms and military equipment to its forces in attempts to evade strikes on its ground convoys.
For the past several years, Israel has acknowledged mounting hundreds of attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria where the Islamic Republic’s forces and proxy terror groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have become entrenched in deployments aimed at attacking Israel while assisting President Bashar al-Assad battle insurgents in the Syrian Civil War which erupted in 2011.
While the Jewish State rarely confirms such missions, the country’s political and defense leaders have repeatedly stated that Iran’s presence just over the northern frontier will not be tolerated.
In related developments, the United States has condemned the Assad regime of committing severe human rights violations.
“Of the atrocities committed by the Assad regime, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, few are as inhumane and abhorrent as the repeated use of chemical weapons against civilians,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The top US diplomat accused the SAF Artillery and Missile Directorate of launching rockets loaded with the deadly sarin nerve agent that killed at least 1,400 people, many of whom were children, in an attack on the Ghouta suburb of Damascus in August 2013
As a measure to take “additional action to promote accountability,” said Secretary Blinken in a statement, the US has designated regime military officials – Brigadier General Adnan Aboud Hilweh, Major General Ghassan Ahmed Ghannam and Major General Jawdat Saleebi Mawas – guilty of involvement “in gross violations of human rights, namely the flagrant denial of the right to life of at least 1,400 people in Ghouta.”
As a result of the action, Hilweh, Ghannam, and Mawas as well as their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.
“The United States remembers and honors the victims and survivors of the Ghouta massacre and the victims of the many other chemical attacks that we assess the Assad regime has launched. We condemn in the strongest possible terms any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances. The United States calls on the Assad regime to fully declare and destroy its chemical weapons program and provide immediate and unfettered access for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons personnel in accordance with its international obligations,” stressed Secretary Blinken.
He also underscored that the US will continue to support “Syrian-led and international efforts to ensure there are consequences for the ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed in Syria. Our support for the brave Syrians who continue to risk their lives to hold the Assad regime accountable will not waver, and we will pursue every measure to find justice for victims and survivors of atrocities and to promote accountability for those responsible, including the Assad regime and its allies,” as well as “the Syrian people in their demands for human rights and fundamental freedoms, security, and peace.”