Damascus once again was rocked by Israeli airstrikes Sunday night, with Syria saying its anti-air defenses were active in confronting a wave of "enemy rockets" from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In a rare acknowledgement of the attack, Israel confirmed in was behind it, and linked it to rocket fire from the Palestinian territory, Gaza. The Israeli army said in a statement that it targeted Islamic Jihad leaders living in Damascus.
"In the Adeliyah region, outside of Damascus, an Islamic Jihad compound was struck, used as a hub of Islamic Jihad's activity in Syria," the statement said. "Israeli military planes targeted Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza" it said further.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirmed that two of its members were killed in Damascus Sunday night, in a relatively brief attack which war monitors say killed a total of six people. The other four were alleged to be members of a pro-Iranian militia.
But Syrian state-run SANA said the country's air defenses were effective, noting they “caused the missiles to deviate from their path, destroying most of the remainder before reaching their goals, and the results of the aggression are still being examined.”
#Syria air defense downed missiles fired fm #Israel occupied Golan. 3 waves of aggression. Western Damascus countryside, Artouz, Khan al-Sheeh, and Sa`saa, and the southern Damascus countryside in al-Kiswa and Marj al-Sultan in Eastern Ghouta, and up to the south of Izraa, Daraa pic.twitter.com/7NO18V1bBy— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) February 6, 2020
Like with prior attacks over the past two years, Israeli jets were said to have fired from outside of Syrian airspace — most of the time from over neighboring Lebanon. Historically, wanted or exiled leaders of Palestinian militant and "resistance" groups have had headquarters in Damascus.
Islamic Jihad's military wing, promised retaliation, saying in a statement: "The Israeli aggression in Damascus and killing two of our fighters is an event that cannot be ignored and will not pass quietly," according to Haaretz.
Israel simultaneously launched airstrikes on Gaza in response to earlier rocket fire:
BREAKING: Six Injured From Israel’s Airstrikes Against Gaza Tonight As Israel Launched 3 Waves Of Airstrikes Against Damascus, Syria.— Robert Inlakesh (@falasteen47) February 24, 2020
Israel Also Killed A Palestinian In Gaza This Morning.
How Long Will It Be Until They Are Held Accountable?#GazaUnderAttack #SyriaUnderAttack pic.twitter.com/TMb4rdncSW
This particular attack is notable not only because it was essentially an assassination of Palestinian commanders related to Gaza, but also because Tel Aviv owned up to it immediately. Prior attacks have been focused on preventing Iranian expansion and entrenchment inside Syria.
Israel's Defense chief Naftali Bennett vowed last week to step up offensive attacks in Syria to stop Iran. “We will go from preventive action to offensive action — the only measure that guarantees us the expulsion of Iran out of Syria,” he said.
“We are warning them (the Iranians), we will turn Syria into an Iranian Vietnam, and you will continue to bleed until the last Iranian soldier leaves Syrian territory,” the nation's defense chief threatened.