23 Said Killed in Israeli Strike in Syria

Syrian state media says aerial defenses shot down most Israeli missiles but reports only eight wounded; monitoring group: Strikes targeted army positions, Iran-backed fighters

ARCHIVE – Syria air defenses over Damascus, January 21, 2019
SANA / AP

Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes early on Thursday near Damascus. Syrian state media reported that eight soldiers were wounded, while an opposition war monitoring group said that 23 people died in the strikes, which targeted army positions and Iran-backed fighters.

Russia's defense ministry said on Friday that the Israeli strike endangered a civilian plane which was about to land in Damascus.

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State news agency SANA said that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles in the suburbs of the capital and the country's south before they reached their targets. It also reported that the Israeli warplanes fired the missiles while flying over the Golan Heights and neighboring Lebanon.

The first attack targeted military positions in the vicinity of Damascus, while the second took place 30 minutes later striking military positions in the vicinity of Daraa, Quneitra and Reef Damascus provinces, SANA reported, quoting a military source.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the Syrian war through a network of activists on the ground, said the airstrikes occurred after midnight on Wednesday. They hit Syrian army positions and those of Iranian-backed militiamen west and south of the capital, as well as the Mazzeh military air base in Damascus, the Observatory said.

According to their breakdown, fifteen of the casualties were from Iranian-backed militias, some local and some foreign, with at least three Iranian among them. Eight were from the Syrian government forces. The Observatory had the death toll at twelve in an earlier assessment.  

Last month, the Syrian army said Israeli jets attacked the main T-4 air base in Homs province, and that its air defences downed several missiles in strikes that caused only material damage. In December, it said the air defense system intercepted missiles fired from the direction of Israel aimed at targets on the outskirts Damascus.