DAYR BALLUT: A displaced Syrian child rides in the back of a truck passing by Dayr Ballut on the way to Afrin and Azaz, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Syria’s Aleppo province.—AFP
DAYR BALLUT: A displaced Syrian child rides in the back of a truck passing by Dayr Ballut on the way to Afrin and Azaz, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Syria’s Aleppo province.—AFP

BEIRUT: Israeli strikes on Damascus airport killed seven fighters, a war monitor said on Friday, the latest in a string of attacks targeting Iran’s military presence in Syria.

Syrian state media said only that its air defences intercepted missiles over the capital overnight while Israel did not immediately comment on the strikes.

Israel routinely fires missiles at what it says are Iranian targets in Syria, where elite Iranian forces and allied militia play a key role.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strikes launched late on Thursday hit military targets in the area of the international airport.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Observatory, said the dead were three Syrian soldiers and four members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

A Syrian army source quoted by SANA said the attack took place at 11:45pm, when a correspondent in Damascus heard loud blasts.

“Our air defences intercepted hostile targets over the skies of Damascus,” SANA said.

It said the “missiles were launched from over the occupied Golan Heights”.

Several missiles were intercepted before they could reach their targets, said the agency, which rarely admits to casualties among army or Iranian ranks.

The Observatory said the targets in the airport area, which has been repeatedly hit in similar strikes, included an arms depot.

The strikes on the airport compound came just after the arrival of a cargo plane, according to Abdel Rahman, who could not specify where the aircraft had flown in from.

He said a vehicle had also been hit on the road towards central Damascus in what seems to have been an attempt to stop a weapons delivery.

SANA released a video of what appeared to be Syrian air defences firing over the capital.

Israel’s political leadership has spoken publicly of the bombing campaign, although the army rarely comments on individual strikes.

Israel argues that Iran’s presence across several parts of Syria, including near the Golan Heights it occupies, is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.

Syrian chopper downed over rebel area

A Syrian military helicopter was shot down over the last major rebel bastion in northwest Syria on Friday, the second such incident in a week of high tensions with Turkey.

The attack in a region where Turkish troops and Russian-backed government forces have engaged in multiple clashes came as Washington urged Ankara to look to its Western allies in light of Moscow’s actions.

It came as Syrian and Russian forces pressed a deadly offensive against the shrinking pocket in the country’s northwest, claiming the lives of nine civilians on Friday.

“At approximately 13:40, one of our military helicopters was hit by a hostile missile in the western countryside of Aleppo,” Syrian state news agency SANA said.

“This led the helicopter to crash, killing all crew on board.” SANA said the aircraft was downed near the town of Urum al-Kubra, where Turkey-backed rebels operate, but did not say who was behind the attack.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020