Syria Blames Missiles, False Alarm on 'Joint Electronic Attack' by Israel and U.S.

Syrian military officials denied reports of an attack, but say defense systems triggered by electronic attack on radars

False alarm in Syria: Military sources says no attack overnight
'Damascus Now' Facebook page

Syrian military sources denied early Monday reports of an early morning missile attack targeting Shayrat air base and told the DPA news agency that the defense systems were activated, but that it turned out to be a false alarm.

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A commander in the regional military alliance that backs the Syrian government attributed the malfunction to "a joint electronic attack" by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.

Hezbollah's media initially also said six missiles were fired toward Shayrat and three missiles toward Dumair military airport near Damascus.

Meanwhile, SANA reported that the missiles targeting the air base were shot down by Syrian air defenses, and Hezbollah's media unit said all nine missiles were intercepted. Later that night, a false alarm was reported near Aleppo.

Neither of the reports from SANA or Hezbollah specified who may have fired the missiles. Sky News said loud explosions were heard on the Syrian side of the Bekaa Valley, which borders Lebanon.

According to a journalist close to Hezbollah, Elijah J. Magnier, Israeli jets fired at least three missiles at the airport, "while violating Lebanese airspace."

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Responding to the SANA report, a Pentagon spokesman said there "is no U.S. military activity in that area at this time," adding: "We do not have additional details to provide." 

Shayrat air base was the target of American strikes last year in response to a chemical weapons attack on northern Syria attributed to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Opposition forces say Dumair airport has been used in the military campaign to regain eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus that the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, completely retook in the last few days after a relentless bombing offensive. 

The reports come days after the United States, together with France and the United Kingdom, carried out precision airstrikes on targets in Syria. The strikes were in retalition for a nerve gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma last Saturday, which Western powers blamed on the Syrian government.

On Sunday, a senior Israeli military official admitted to The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that Israel attacked an Iranian target in Syria last week. “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” the Israeli military official said of the strike, which targed an Iranian drone command center at T4 air base.

The official also noted that the armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace in February "opened a new period," saying that "this is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy."

DPA contributed to the report.