Israel hits Iranian and Syrian targets around Damascus – military

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Media captionAn onlooker captures explosions in the night sky over Damascus.

Israel says it has hit Iranian targets around the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The Israel Defense Forces says the overnight operation targeted the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as Syrian air defences.

The Syrian military says it shot down most of the Israeli missiles. But a monitoring group reported that at least 11 pro-government fighters were killed.

The IDF says it acted after the Quds Force fired a rocket from Syria towards the occupied Golan Heights on Sunday.

Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has backed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war and has sent thousands of military personnel to support him.

What do we know about the Israeli operation?

The IDF rarely admits carrying out attacks inside Syria. But it announced the start of Monday’s strikes on the Quds Force in a tweet.

A statement issued later said Israeli fighter jets had hit munition storage sites, a site located in Damascus International Airport, an Iranian intelligence site and an Iranian military training camp.

The jets also struck several Syrian military air defence batteries after dozens of surface-to-air missiles were launched “despite clear warnings”, according to the IDF.

“In firing towards Israeli territory yesterday [Sunday], Iran once again offered definitive proof of its real intentions of its entrenchment in Syria, which endangers the State of Israel and regional stability,” the statement said.

“The IDF will continue operating determinedly to thwart Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

“In addition, the IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for everything taking place within Syria and warns the Syrian regime against targeting Israel or permitting it to be targeted.”

What does the Syrian military say?

Syria’s state-run Sana news agency quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences “confronted an Israeli attack” and “prevented it from achieving its objectives”.

“Our air defences dealt with the situation and intercepted the hostile missiles, downing most of them before reaching their targets as they continue their heroic response to the aggression,” the source added, without mentioning any casualties.

The Russian military, which also supports the Syrian government, said more than 30 missiles and guided bombs were shot down by Syrian air defences.

However, it added that the “infrastructure” of Damascus International Airport was partially damaged and that four Syrian soldiers were killed and six were wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said the strikes had targeted weapons depots belonging to Iran and the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah.

At least 11 fighters, including two Syrians, were killed, it added.

What triggered the strikes?

The operation came a day after IDF said Quds Force personnel launched a surface-to-surface rocket from Syrian territory towards the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.

A popular winter tourist site on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights was closed as a result.

“We have a set policy, to target the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and to harm whoever tried to harm us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Chad.

In May 2018, Israel said it had struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria, following a rocket attack on its positions in the Golan Heights.

Israel seized the region from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it.

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