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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Israel intercepts rockets from Syria

Israel has been on high alert since June 19, when Syrian regime troops launched an offensive to take areas near border

A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria. AFP
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria. AFP

Israeli air defences fired at rockets that approached from neighbouring Syria, where regime troops were closing in on opposition forces close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

"Syrian rockets were identified as having been launched as part of the internal fighting in Syria," said the Israeli army.

It said in an English statement that two of Israel’s newly deployed David’s Sling interceptors were launched “in response to the threat”, but added that the rockets fell inside Syria. It did not say if the interceptors hit the rockets.

David's Sling, developed with US backing, was introduced into service in April 2017 to fill the gap between the longer-range Arrow missile defence system and the shorter-range Iron Dome interceptor.

Israel seized the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six Day war, in a move that was never recognised by the international community.

Since June 19, Israel has been on high alert when forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad launched a Russia-backed offensive to retake Quneitra and Deraa and provinces, adjacent respectively to the Israeli-held section of the Golan and to Jordan.

Regime forces have since regained control of most of these two provinces through a combination of deadly bombardment and Moscow-brokered surrender deals.

On Sunday, Syrian state television said that an Israeli air strike had hit a military post in the city of Misyaf in Syria’s Hama province, causing material damage.

The report did not elaborate on what exactly had been targeted, but an intelligence source told Reuters that a major military research centre for chemical arms production was located near the city and believed to house a team of Iranian military experts involved in weapons production.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on foreign reports.”

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Israel strikes military post in Syria's Hama province

More evacuations as Syrian regime makes gains along Golan

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Israel, concerned that Iran's growing presence in Syria poses a threat to its security, has escalated in recent months its strikes on suspected Iranian and Iran-backed positions in Syria.

In May, Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran's military infrastructure after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.

Iran is a key ally of Mr Assad and supports a number of militias, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, who has thousands of fighters battling alongside regime troops

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Moscow's military chief of staff were due to arrive in Israel later on Monday for talks on the conflict in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Mr Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country back the Assad regime, requested the meeting with Mr Lavrov and General Valery Gerasimov "in a conversation with me a few days ago".

The two leaders have held a number of discussions in recent months on the Syrian conflict and Iran's military presence there.

Also on Monday, the foreign ministry in Damascus condemned the evacuation of hundreds of trapped White Helmets rescue workers and their relatives from Syria's south through Israel.

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At least six killed in air strikes in southern Syria

Syria state media says Israel bombs military post in Aleppo

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More than 400 rescue workers and family members from Syria's southern provinces of Deraa and Quneitra were transported to Jordan via Israel to be resettled in Western countries.

"The criminal operation that Israel and its tools conducted in the area reveals the true nature of the so-called White Helmets," said a source at the foreign ministry, cited by state news agency SANA.

The source repeated the Syrian government's accusation that the rescue force is a front group for "terrorists" and said Damascus had warned the world of its "dangers".

"Words of condemnation are not enough to express the indignation that every Syrian feels towards these despicable conspiracies and the limitless aid from Western countries, Israel, and Jordan to the White Helmets," the source said.

The White Helmets is a network of first responders which rescues the wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling, or explosions in rebel territory across Syria.

Hundreds of them were stuck in a pocket of southern Syria, fearing advancing Syrian government forces.

Jordan's foreign ministry announced in a statement that the kingdom received 422 Syrian nationals for resettlement in Britain, Germany and Canada.

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