Damascus claims to knock down two Israeli missiles; attack on alleged arms depot comes hours after IDF reports 'abnormal' activities by Iranian forces, goes on high alert in Golan
By Judah Ari Gross 8 May 2018, 11:03 pm 11
Syrian state media reported on Tuesday night that Israel conducted an airstrike south of Damascus, reportedly killing nine pro-Iranian fighters in an area previously identified as the site of a suspected Iranian military base.
Syria’s official SANA news outlet said that the country’s air defenses intercepted two Israeli missiles over the el-Kiswah area, south of Damascus. The report did not specify how many missiles were fired.
“Nine fighters belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or pro-Iranian Shiite militias have been killed” Rami Abd el-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
As a rule, the Israeli military does not comment on airstrikes in Syria.
The alleged strike came hours after the Israeli military said it had identified “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria” and called for local governments in the Golan Heights to open their bomb shelters.
Rahman said the strike targeted an “arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranians.”
Earlier on Tuesday night, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, in part due to Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.
The al-Mayadeen news outlet, which is seen as sympathetic to Hezbollah, reported that fires had broken out in the area following the blasts.
An official with the Iran-led axis of resistance told the Associated Press the strike targeted a Syrian army position and caused only material damage. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.
Videos from the scene, which were posted on social media, showed the moment of the strike’s impact and its aftermath. Surveillance footage showed a blast of white light as the bombs hit, followed by what appeared to be secondary explosions, supporting the claim that the targets of the strike were missiles. Cellphone videos also showed trucks burning and fires raging in the direction of the alleged Iranian base.
Following the attack, Lebanese media reported that Israeli jets were flying sorties over the country’s southern coast.
In November 2017, Western intelligence officials told the BBC that Iran had established a permanent military base in el-Kiswah.
A month later, the alleged Iranian base was targeted by an airstrike, which was attributed to Israel.
A satellite image showing the results of an alleged Israeli airstrike on a reported Iranian base being set up outside Damascus, from November 16, 2017 and December 4, 2017. (ImageSat International ISI)
The army on Tuesday night did not instruct residents of the Golan Heights to enter bomb shelters, only for local authorities to open public ones in case of emergency.
A number of reservists were also called up, the army said. An IDF spokesperson would not elaborate on which units they came from, but media reports indicated they served in air defense, intelligence and Home Front Command units.