Israeli aircraft fired several missiles at targets in central Syria early Friday. Syrian state media reported that a family of four — including two children — died and four others were wounded in the attack.

“At about four o’clock in the morning today, the Israeli enemy launched an aerial aggression with a barrage of missiles coming from the direction of the Lebanese city of Tripoli, aiming at some targets in the vicinity of Hama governorate. Our air defenses confronted the enemy’s missiles and downed most of them,” Syrian state-run media outlet SANA quoted a military source as saying.

“The Israeli aggression resulted in the martyrdom of a family, including a father, mother and two children” on the governorate’s western edges, SANA added.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a watchdog of the Syrian civil war, said the strikes targeted five posts of Iran-backed fighters based within Syrian army positions. SOHR added that the posts were destroyed; however, parts of an air defense missile fell on a residential area causing the civilian deaths and injuries.

Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. It has targeted Iranian bases and those of its proxy militias including Hezbollah, as well as weapons manufacturing and storage units. Israel has said it will not tolerate any Iranian military presence on its borders.

On its website, SOHR has recorded 39 Israeli strikes inside Syria in 2020. These strikes have hit 135 targets, including military posts, warehouses, or vehicles.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) haven’t commented on this latest airstrike, which is their normal procedure. 

With the Trump administration’s departure, the Israelis have stepped up their airstrikes in Syria. Friday’s strike was the first since Joe Biden assumed the presidency. Israel is unsure of how the new U.S. administration will react to what Israel frequently claims are proactive measures along its northern border.

On January 13, the Israelis conducted a massive airstrike in eastern Syria, targeting positions and arms depots of Iran-backed forces. At least 57 fighters were killed and dozens more wounded according to SOHR. What made that attack unique was that it was carried out in an area of Syria where Israel rarely operates and that it was carried out with intelligence supplied by the United States. 

In that attack, the Israelis targeted 18 different sites. Among the targets were warehouses that were part of the pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons, including components for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. 

Israeli jets have also been frequently seen over Lebanese airspace and Beirut. Their low-altitude flights have added to an already tense situation in the Lebanese capital.

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