Missile fire is seen from Damascus, Syria.
(photo credit: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS)
Syrian state media said Israel missiles targeted Damascus airport Saturday evening, with regime air defenses firing in response.
“Our air defense systems thwarted an Israeli missile aggression, shooting down a number of enemy missiles,” state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying.
Local reports said a military position was struck by several missiles close to Damascus airport, destroying an Iranian military weapons depot with newly-arrived arms.
According to Hezbollah-linked Twitter account, there were ongoing flight by Israeli reconnaissance drones in Lebanese airspace hours after the strikes.
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran via Syria, stressing that both are red lines for the Jewish state.
Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria, but in mid-August the IDF announced it has carried out more than 200 air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and fired more than 800 missiles and mortar shells over the past year and a half.Israel is suspected of carrying out hundreds of other strikes.
According to the IDF, the strikes – which mainly targeted advanced weapons systems and infrastructure belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps – were aimed at preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and led Iranians to evacuate several bases in Syria. The strikes were intended to have an effect on the Islamic Republic’s arms smuggling.
Israel has warned against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and has stressed time and again that Syrian soil cannot serve as a forward operating base by Iran, and that the war-torn country cannot be a way station for arms smuggling to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In late August, new satellite images of an area in northwestern Syria revealed the establishment a new Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory, which according to ImageSat International (ISI), may house weapons capable of striking Israel.
The images taken by ISI purport to show evidence which suggest Iran is continuing to build various facilities related to the development and production of surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) in the area of Wadi Jahannam near Banyas.
According to ISI, some of the structures at the site – which is involved in the manufacturing and assembly facility of different SSM types – have similar visual characteristics as structures built at SSM facilities in Parchin and Khojir in Iran.
“Therefore, is it probable that the same elements are responsible for their planning and construction,” ISI wrote in their analysis, adding that the facility is in its final stages of construction and will likely be completed by early 2019.
While ISI assessed that Iran is assisting Syria’s SSM capabilities for its civil war, “since those conflicts are currently smaller and less widespread than before, it is possible that the Iranian efforts are for future use by Hezbollah or Iran itself against Israel as well,” they wrote.
In mid-July, the Syrian regime accused Israel of striking a Syrian army base near Aleppo, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 22 Syrian soldiers were said to have been killed in the attack.
Unconfirmed reports said the strikes lasted up to 10 minutes, with several aircrafts taking part.
The IDF did not comment.