At least four Iranian militants and three civilians were killed and another four people were wounded, including a child, after Syrian air defense systems were activated in response to an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting the Damascus area from Lebanese airspace early Monday morning, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The attack marks the second airstrike in Syria blamed on Israel in the past week.
The civilian deaths and injuries were caused after shrapnel from Israeli missiles hit homes in the towns of Al-Hujaira and Al-Adliya in the Damascus area, according to Syria’s state news agency SANA. SOHR reported that it was unclear whether the shrapnel was from Israeli missiles or Syrian air defense systems.
Images spread on social media reportedly from the scene showed a building with much of the upper floor damaged, along with reports that a man and his wife who lived in the building were killed.
من موقع سقوط شظايا الصاروخ الاسرائيلي المعادي في بلدة حجيرة بريف #دمشق فجر اليوم والذي تسبب باستشهاد رجل و زوجته بحسب مصادر طبية لمراسلون @Muraselon_ar pic.twitter.com/cgJeMYCAX1— Yusha Yuseef (@MIG29_) April 27, 2020
The opposition-affiliated TV station Halab Today reported that witnesses from the areas affected by the alleged airstrikes stated that there was continuous ambulance traffic there for an hour after the strikes and that casualties were caused by the strikes.
The TV station added that large explosions were heard at the site before Syrian air defense systems even began responding. A military source told SANA that the systems were able to shoot down most of the missiles, but that some managed to cause material damage.
According to the Step News Agency, the airstrikes targeted Iranian sites south of Damascus including near Al-Kiswah, Sahnaya and Set Zaynab. Material damage and casualties were reported in Al-Kiswah and Sahnaya.
One missile hit an Iranian site in Set Zaynab, but no information was available yet on the extent of casualties or damage.
The strikes targeted areas where headquarters and sites belonging to Iranian forces, the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group and militias loyal to Iran and Hezbollah are located, according to SOHR. Several sites were destroyed in the strikes.
Al-Arabiya reported that the airstrikes targeted sites belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and were conducted to hit Iranian figures in the area. Significant Hezbollah forces were present in the targeted area as well. According to Al-Arabiya, the airstrikes were approved by Russia.
Syrian activist Ibrahim Idlibi told Al-Arabiya that the targeted sites belong to Hezbollah, the Imam Hussein militia and the elite Republican Guards led by Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother Maher. Maher is close with Tehran, according to Al-Arabiya.
The Imam Hussein militia receives "special treatment" and better funding than other militias from Iran, according to Idlibi, who called it the "most dangerous of those present in Syria."
According to Al-Mayadeen, Israeli aircraft were flying at low altitudes over southern Lebanon during the time of the attack.
The airspace over the Golan Heights east of the Jordan River was closed to flights over 5,000 ft. on Monday morning and will stay closed until Thursday.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel is not lowering its guard and is "more determined" than Iran, adding that he "wouldn't say that it's been good for [Iran, Hezbollah and Syria] recently.
"For Iran, Syria is an adventure far from home: 1,000 km from home, from the Golan Heights. For us, it's life,” Bennett said. “Iranian soldiers who come to Syria and operate within Syria: Their blood is on their heads. They are risking their lives and paying with their lives. We will not allow the establishment of an advanced Iranian base in Syria.”
Last week on Monday night, at least nine Iranian militants and members of the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group were killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Palmyra area of Syria, according to SOHR.
Anna Ahronheim and Reuters contributed to this report.