DAMASCUS: Israeli air strikes in central Syria killed at least 11 government troops and militiamen late on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The strikes were the first carried out by Israel in Syria since 11 days of heavy fighting with the Hamas rulers of Gaza ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on May 21, the Britain-based war monitor said.
“At least seven army soldiers and four National Defence Forces militiamen were killed,” Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman said, adding that all of the dead were Syrian.
The Observatory said the strikes targeted air force positions near the village of Khirbet al-Tin on the outskirts of Homs, as well as an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.
The Israeli air force carried out strikes in several regions of Syria, in the capital Damascus as well as in Homs, Hama and Latakia provinces, the Observatory said.
Syria’s state SANA news agency said there had been “explosions in Damascus” as Israeli forces carried out the raid from Lebanese air space.
It said air defences had been activated against the “Israeli aggression”, but said nothing about any casualties or damage.
The Israeli army, which rarely acknowledges individual strikes on Syria, declined to comment on “reports in the foreign media”.Another report said that Syrian air defences intercepted an Israeli missile strike over the capital Damascus while military defectors said the missiles may have targeted Iranian-backed militias.
“Syrian air defences intercepted an Israeli aggression coming from Lebanese airspace,” state media said. Earlier, state media said large explosions were heard.
A Syrian military source was quoted on state media as saying the strikes targeted parts of central and southern areas, without elaborating on the locations, adding they left only material damage.
Some state media outlets said the strikes hit Homs province which also adjoins neighbouring Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed Hezbollah holds sway along the rugged border area.Western intelligence sources said Israels stepped-up strikes on Syria since last year are part of a shadow war approved by the United States. The strikes are also part of an anti-Iran policy that in the last two years has undermined Irans extensive military power without starting a major increase in hostilities.
The intelligence sources said that Israel has over the past year expanded its targets across Syria, where thousands of Iranian-backed militias have been involved in regaining much of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar al Assad to insurgents in the decade-old civil war.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2021