Israel Defense Force missiles and aircraft struck targets at Syria’s international airport near Damascus on Monday during a rare daylight raid that military officials say involved Iranian targets.
Also rare was the Israeli government’s admission that it was involved in striking Iranian targets inside Syria, a departure from a years-long policy of ambiguity and denial regarding its military operations there.
Targets included munitions storage facilities as well as an intelligence-gathering site and a military training camp, reports said.
The strikes were launched in response to a surface-to-surface rocket attack that Iranian forces alleged fired toward the Jewish state on Sunday that Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted, which was caught on video over a kis resort in the Golan Heights.
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The missile intercept followed daylight Israeli airstrikes near the Damascus International Airport.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes lasted for nearly an hour and were the most intense IDF attacks since May. The group said 11 were killed in the strikes.
Russian military officials, meanwhile, said four Syrian troops were among those killed.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters that the Iranian missile attack which led to the strong Israeli response was “premeditated.”
Reports said that Iranian forces launched the mid-range missile from Syria toward Israel from the area near Damascus. IDF officials said the missile had been smuggled into Syria by Iran for the express purpose of launching it at Israel.
Conricus would not identify the type of missile, but he said it had not been used in any of the internal fighting in the Syrian civil war and had “no business” being in the country. He added that Iranian Quds Forces operating in Syria conducted the attack.
Other reports claimed that a number of Israel missiles were also intercepted by Syrian air defenses.
Tass, quoting senior Russian military officials, claimed that 30 Israeli “cruise missiles and guided bombs” were intercepted.
“On January 21, 2019 between 2:11 am and 2:56 am the Israeli Air Force carried out three air strikes on Syria’s territory from the western, southwestern and southern directions. While repelling the strike, the Syrian air defenses destroyed more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs,” the National Defense Management Center told reporters.
The Syrian strikes follow another warning last week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iranian threats inside the country would not be tolerated.