Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Explosions in Damascus: Syrian forces shoot down projectile fired from Israel

Residents and the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported loud explosions in Damascus

A January 21, 2019 picture shows Syrian air defence batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. AFP
A January 21, 2019 picture shows Syrian air defence batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. AFP

Syrian air defence batteries on Friday night intercepted projectiles coming from Israel and downed a number of them, the official news agency SANA reported.

"Our air defence systems intercepted luminous objects coming from the occupied territories (Israel) and downed several of them," SANA said quoting a military source.

A later report described the projectiles as "hostile targets" which were fired "towards the province of Quneitra" near the Golan Heights, parts of which are annexed by Israel.

Earlier SANA reported a "loud explosion" around the capital Damascus.

A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said "three explosions" shook southwest Damascus on Friday.

"They were Israeli strikes that targeted the Kiswah region where weapons warehouses belonging to Iran and [its Lebanese proxy] Hezbollah are located," observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Many have been directed at Hezbollah and Iranian proxies in operations the Israeli military says is to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons to armed groups.

The latest report comes amid soaring tensions in the region between Israel's arch-foe Iran and the United States.

The stand-off had been simmering since the United States last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear treaty which Iran reached with major world powers.

In recent days, the US accused Iran of alleged threats and last week deployed an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf.

In April, Syria said an Israeli air strike targeted a town in central Hama province north of Damascus, wounding three combatants and destroying buildings.

State media at the time said Syrian air defences intercepted "some of the Israeli missiles".

In March, Syria accused Israel of having attacked targets just north of second city Aleppo, adding that it air defences had shot down several missiles, after a string of Israeli raids in January.

On January 12, 2019, Syrian air defences shot down Israeli missiles targeting a transport ministry warehouse at the Damascus international airport, SANA reported at the time.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that strike and said Israel was "more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria."

Just over a week later, Israel announced its Iron Dome aerial defence system had intercepted a rocket fired from Syria by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force.

In response, Israeli fighter jets carried out further strikes inside Syria, targeting Iranian facilities and Syrian aerial defence batteries.

The Observatory said that at least 21 people, mostly Iranians, were killed in the January raids.

Israel insists that it has the right to continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed not to let Iran – which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad –entrench itself militarily in the war-torn country.

Updated: May 18, 2019 09:54 AM

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