Russia Says Israel Behind Thwarted Attack Targeting Airport in Damascus

Israeli army intercepts missile over Golan Heights; Netanyahu says Israel will act against Iran's entrenchment in Syria

Missile trails over the Golan Heights, January 20, 2019
IDF Twitter

UPDATE: Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after missile launch

Russia on Sunday claimed that Israel was behind an attack thwarted by the Syrian military earlier in the day, which targeted an airport in southeast Damascus. 

The Israeli military said that missile fired toward the northern Golan Heights were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. 

Iron dome missile launch captured by skiers on Israel's Hermon

The missile was fired shortly after Syrian state media reported that Syrian military air defenses thwarted an Israeli airstrike on the south of the country.

Israelis visiting Mount Hermon in the country's north reported seeing rockets flying over from Israeli territory later Sunday.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to Chad, spoke about the reported strikes. "We have a set policy, to target the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and to harm whoever tried to harm us," he said. "This policy doesn’t change when I am in Israel or while I am on a historic visit to Chad."

During the alleged strike, an Iranian passenger plane originating in Tehran was about to land in Damascus. It began its descent, though turned around and flew back to Iran moments before touching down.

About a month ago, during another Israeli strike in Damascus, an Iraqi passenger jet was diverted to Latakia.

No more ambiguity?

Israel's policy of ambiguity regarding its Syria strikes has been all-but-lifted recently by Netanyahu and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

As Haaretz's Amos Harel writes, it began with Eisenkot’s proud assertion to the New York Times of attacks on thousands of targets in the north during his tenure. Last Sunday, Netanyahu took public responsibility for attacking Iranian weapons stores in Syria the Friday before.

"The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria," Netanyahu said, while Eisenkot said that Israel "struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit,”  

Earlier Sunday, an explosion was heard near a highway at the southern edge of Syria's capital Damascus on Sunday morning, Syrian state media reported. The head of the city's civil defense, Asef Hababe, told Reuters the blast came from military technicians detonating a bomb.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitoring group, said the blast struck near a security post. State TV had said earlier that initial reports pointed to a terrorist attack, and that a number of people were injured. 

Reuters contributed to this report