Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Syria says air defences shoot down Israeli missiles

The strikes reportedly targeted a Hezbollah-linked facility in Al Kisweh in Syria

Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base in December. AP
Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base in December. AP

Syrian state media reported late on Friday that Syrian air defences responded to Israeli missiles and shot them down over Damascus, as a group monitor said the strikes hit near the Syrian capital's airport.

The strikes are suspected to have been carried out by Israel and targeted the area surrounding Damascus airport and Al Kisweh region where Iran has heavily deployed proxies and military sites in the past, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Most of the missiles fired by "Israeli military planes" were intercepted at around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT), the source said.

"Only a ministry of transport warehouse at Damascus international airport was hit," SANA cited the military source as saying.

The state news agency also quoted a transport ministry source as saying that the airport was running normally.

The strikes were first reported a little before midnight in Damascus by the Syrian News Agency. It claimed that Syrian air defences have foiled and countered “hostile objects” over Damascus on Friday night.

Commentators suggested the attacks have targeted a Hezbollah-linked facility in Al Kisweh.

The Israeli jets reportedly crossed over to Syria through Lebanese airspace after having heavily roamed over Lebanon on Thursday.

Al Kisweh has been hit by Israel at least three times before, with a large-scale raid carried out last May. In 2017 the BBC, quoting a Western intelligence source, reported the Iranian military had reportedly established a compound at a site used by the Syrian army outside Al Kiswah, 14 km south of Damascus.

If confirmed, this would be the second round of Israeli strikes in Syria since US announced its intent to withdraw on December 19.

Israel has previously carried out several bombings in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese group, both avowed enemies of the country.

Many of them have been in the area south of Damascus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to let Tehran - a supporter of President Assad - entrench itself militarily in the war-torn country.

In September a Russian military plane was accidentally shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire that was attempting to block Israeli missiles.

Russia is a main ally of Damascus, helping it to win back vast swathes of territory lost to rebels or militant groups since the civil war began in 2011.

Updated: January 12, 2019 12:50 PM

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