An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli airforce pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel December 29, 2016..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The Israel Air Force struck Syrian military positions east of Damascus in a series of overnight raids, the Syrian Army said on Tuesday.
According to a statement from Syrian state news agency SANA, Israeli jets flying inside Lebanese airspace fired several missiles toward the al-Qutaifa area at around 2:40 a.m., causing damage near the military site. The regime’s air defenses intercepted the missiles and hit one of the planes, the Syrian Army’s General Command said.
Israel is also said to have fired two surface-to-surface missiles from the Golan Heights at 3:04 a.m. and another four missiles from the area of Tiberias. The Syrian Army statement claimed that all missiles were intercepted but that some damage was caused as a result. “The Israeli aggression affirms again the support of the occupying entity to terrorist organizations in Syria and its desperate attempts to raise their morale after the painful blows they received in Harasta in eastern Ghouta in Damascus countryside and the sweeping victories the Syrian Arab Army is achieving in Idlib,” read the army statement.
Local sources reported the sounds of explosions near longrange missile warehouses and other military compounds in the town of Qutayfah, the Qasioun news website reported.
SANA cited the General Command saying the attack was carried out to raise the morale of the “defeated” rebels, warning against the risks posed by such attacks and that it “holds the Israeli entity fully responsible for their repercussions.” The General Command “affirmed its high alert to confront such attacks, continue war against terrorism and to eradicate Israel’s terrorist tools to restore security and stability to all the Syrian territories.
“This flagrant aggression reaffirms Israel’s support for the armed terrorist groups in Syria and its desperate attempts to lift its morale,” the statement read. The Syrian Army holds Israel “fully responsible” for the actions, the statement said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local opposition media reported that the strikes targeted the 155th Brigade where Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have a weapons depot that houses Scud missile launchers.
The brigade is a missile unit.
Hezbollah is known to have various long- and medium- range missile systems, including the Iranian-made Fajr-5, M-600 rockets, the Zeizal-2, and the shorter-range M75 and Katyushas. According to a senior officer in the IAF’s Air Defense Division, the terrorist group is continuously working to acquire missiles with larger warheads and longer ranges.
Israel is reported to have targeted caches of Scud missiles in Syria several times over the past several years, and in March the Syrian military warned that if Israel carried out any further air strikes in the war-torn country, Damascus would respond by firing Scud missiles targeting both civilian areas and military bases.
Lebanon’s Al-Diyar newspaper reported at the time that Damascus prepared four Scud missiles out of its arsenal of 800 that carry half a ton of explosives each, and would fire them without warning if Israel carried out any new strike, “as Israel does not announce their raids against Syrian targets.”
While the IDF has not commented on the reports, as it rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria, Israel has publicly admitted to having attacked more than 100 Hezbollah convoys and other targets in Syria, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that strikes will continue when “we have information and operational feasibility.”
With the war in Syria winding down with President Bashar Assad as the victor, Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on the northern borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Iran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state.