The Syrian capital of Damascus was rocked by airstrikes near the international airport, on early Friday morning, as Iranian-led proxy militias were hit by airstrikes.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that seven members of the militia were killed. On the Jordanian, Al-Hadath news, the attack was reported as having originated from the Golan Heights. The Israeli air force was identified as the attacker. It was also reported that four of the dead were Iranian troops and three belonged to the Syrian regime, including two officers and a Syrian pilot.
The attack occurred shortly after a cargo aircraft arrived at Damascus International Airport. It isn’t known if the aircraft arrived from Iran or another destination. The report stated that the attack occurred after an intelligence operation; if true it would mean that this attack was neither random nor planned far in advance.
The Israelis, as is their M.O. refused to confirm or deny the reports that they conducted the airstrike. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed on an Israeli radio show and claimed no knowledge of the attack. “I don’t know what happened overnight, maybe the Belgian Air Force carried out the attack. Our policy is to prevent Iran from establishing itself in Syria,” he said.
The Syrian Armed Forces confirmed reports of the attack, with a military source saying to the media, “Air defense systems were immediately put into action and downed a number of enemy missiles before they could reach their targets.”
The Syrian official news agency SANA reported that the regime’s air defenses “intercepted hostile targets in the airspace of Damascus.” It cited an unnamed military source in saying that “at 23.45 p.m. on Thursday, the army observed hostile missiles coming from over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, and immediately the army air defenses intercepted and downed a number of them before they reach their targets.”
“The hostile missiles came from over the occupied Syrian Golan,” which is how they address Israel.
This attack, if indeed Israel was behind it, flies in the face of the latest Iranian threats. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Wednesday: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will give a crushing response that will cause regret to any kind of aggression or stupid action” from Israel against Tehran’s interests in Syria.
Just last week, the former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei, spoke to Lebanon’s Hezbollah-run al-Mayadeen television station, saying: “You should have no doubt about this. We would raze Tel Aviv to the ground for sure. We have been looking for such a pretext,” Rezaei said.
“We were waiting for the Americans to give us a pretext to strike Tel Aviv, just like we attacked Ayn Al-Assad,” he said referencing the Iranian missile attack on the base where U.S. troops are based. The attack followed the targeted assassination of MG Qassem Soleimani.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Syria also reported that the Iranian-led militias are offering large cash incentives to local Syrians, who live in and around the Golan Heights, to join the militia. There are no reports on how successful their recruitment efforts were.