Outgoing Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot sits next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Syrian regime accused Israel of launching several missiles toward Damascus International Airport Friday night, triggering air defenses which intercepted several of them, the official news agency SANA said.
“At 11:15 before midnight, Israeli warplanes coming from Galilee area launched several missiles towards the surroundings of Damascus and our air defenses immediately intercepted them and downed most of them,” a military source was quoted by SANA as saying, adding that there were no casualties in the strikes, only “material damage to one of the ammunition warehouses.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the jets targeted missile depots belonging to Hezbollah in the al-Kiswah area, as well as the Damascus International Airport. Other local reports said that the strikes had destroyed Iranian cargo planes at the airport outside the capital.
Syria’s Ministry of Transport stated that air traffic at the airport was operating as usual and had not been affected by the strikes.
There was no comment on the strikes by Israel which rarely comments on alleged air force operations on the northern front, but Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from the Islamic republic to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state.
IAF jets are believed to have carried out dozens of attacks in al-Kiswah and the Damascus airport as part of its effort to prevent Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.
With the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces, Israel’s northern front has become the IDF’s number one priority. On Friday, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot admitted that Israel has carried out “thousands” of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
“We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit,” he told The New York Times ahead of his retirement on Sunday.
Israel “operated under a certain threshold until two-and-a-half years ago,” when he got “unanimous consent” from the government to change the rules of the game, firing some 2,000 missiles against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in 2018 alone.
Last month, an Israeli official confirmed that Israel had carried out airstrikes against Iranian targets near the Syrian capital on Christmas, hitting an arms depot and several military positions, including air defense facilities. In response to the strikes, Syria activated its air defense systems, causing Israel’s air defense system to activate against a Syrian anti-aircraft missile.
According to Newsweek, senior Hezbollah leaders were injured during the strike. A US Defense Department official with access to top Israeli military officials who are privy to the situation, allegedly told Newsweek that the senior officials were targeted minutes after they boarded a plane headed for Iran.
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