Syria Says Air Defenses Intercept Projectiles Coming From Israel

Residents in Damascus report hearing several loud blasts ■ Rights group says the targeted area has an Iranian military and Hezbollah presence

FILE Photo: An image grab from a video broadcast on Syria's official TV purportedly shows Syrian air defense systems intercepting Israeli missiles over Syrian airspace. May 10, 2018
HANDOUT / STR / CENTRAL WAR MEDI

Syrian air defenses have targeted projectiles coming from "occupied territory," a reference to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and brought some of them down, Syrian state television reported on Friday. 

The Syrian Arab News Agency, Syria's state news agency, quoted a Syrian military source who said that the air defense system was activated against missiles fired at western Damascus from the direction of  Quneitra, in the Golan Heights, within Israeli territory. A number of missiles were intercepted.

The state television channel showed footage of the night sky with a point of light firing up into it and the sound of shooting. It did not immediately report casualties or material damage. 

>> Read more: Ambiguous no more: Israel owns Syria strikes but Iran may get the last word | Analysis 

Residents in Damascus said they heard several loud blasts shortly before the television news bulletin that reported the incident. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor affiliated with the Syrian opposition, reported that three explosions were heard in southern and southwestern Damascus. According to the report, the areas that were targeted have an Iranian military and Hezbollah presence.

Other reports associated with the opposition say that the strikes were carried out from Lebanese airspace.  

The strikes follow a statement given to the Guardian Thursday night, in which a diplomatic source said that a convoy of Iranian missiles was transferred into Syria via Iraq's Anbar province last week. The source said that Israeli and U.S. intelligence were unaware of the transfer.

In April, Syrian state news reported that Israel targeted a military position near the province of Hama in Syria which was intercepted and some of its rockets downed by Syrian air defenses. This came just one month after seven members of Iran-backed armed forces were killed in alleged Israeli airstrikes on ammunition depots near Aleppo International Airport. 

Iran's growing influence in Syria, where it has struck economic and trade deals, has raised the prospect of a military confrontation with its arch-enemy Israel.

Israel, which considers Iran its biggest threat, has according to media reports repeatedly attacked Iranian targets in Syria and those of allied militia, including Lebanon's Hezbollah. Israel rarely confirms or denies the reports, although it confirmed attacking Iranian targets in Syria in January and February.

Friday's incident comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran following attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf and an intense sanction campaign.