During the night Tuesday Israel conducted a “wide-scale” strike on Syria, focused in and around Damascus, resulting in a soaring casualty count according to the AP.
"A Britain-based war monitoring group said the Israeli airstrikes killed 11 people, including seven non-Syrians who are most likely Iranians," the AP initially reported, though Syrian state media cited two civilians killed among multiple wounded. That number was revised Wednesday morning to at least 23 people, most said to be "non-Syrians" — likely Iranians, according to reports.
The Israeli military said it had hit multiple targets belonging to Iran’s elite Quds force, specifically missile and weapons warehouses, after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said rockets were "fired at Israel by an Iranian force in Syria".
International reports have described the attacks as the most intense since a similar operation last January. Over the past months what were previously somewhat frequent Israeli raids inside Syria had grown quiet.
The Israeli military said its fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to Iran’s elite Quds force, including surface-to-air missiles, weapons warehouses and military bases. After the Syrian military fired an air defense missile, the Israeli military said a number of Syrian aerial defense batteries were also destroyed.
#BREAKING: We just carried out wide-scale strikes of Iranian Quds Force & Syrian Armed Forces targets in Syria in response to the rockets fired at Israel by an Iranian force in Syria last night.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 20, 2019
Damascus residents are outraged after a direct hit on a civilian home Wednesday night, which included children among the wounded, as the AP reports:
Syria’s state SANA news agency said the two civilians were killed by shrapnel when an Israeli missile hit a house in the town of Saasaa, southwest of Damascus. It said several others were wounded, including a girl in a residential building in the suburb of Qudsaya, also west of the Syrian capital.
Syrian air defenses were active during the assault, with the Syrian Army saying it downed multiple inbound Israeli rockets.
Official media said Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were able to successfully "intercept and destroy most of the hostile missiles before reaching their targets."
Syria media reporting that air defenses were able to "intercept and destroy most of the hostile missiles before reaching their targets"— @alikhbariasy is showing images of alleged damage of strike to house in Qudsiyya neighborhood as well as some purported intercepts. pic.twitter.com/FEOK0HWJDn— 𝕋om 𝕆'ℂonnor (@ShaolinTom) November 20, 2019
However, Israeli statements disputed this, with an Army statement saying up to "dozens" of targets were hit, including an Iranian base at Damascus International Airport.
"The attack was carried out in response to the launching of rockets by an Iranian force from Syria's territory into Israel, intending to strike Israeli territory," read the IDF statement, referring to a barrage of rockets launched toward Israel's Golan on Tuesday.
“Yesterday’s Iranian attack towards Israel is further clear proof of the purpose of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, which threatens Israeli security, regional stability and the Syrian regime,” Israeli spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
The statement added that Israel would “continue operating firmly and resolutely” against Iran in Syria, which shows that despite the war inside Syria slowly winding down and Assad in firm control over most of the country, the long-running "shadow war" with Israel is still escalating.
#BREAKING: In response to yesterday's launch of rockets by #IRGC proxies including #Hezbollah at #GolanHeights, #Israel Air Force carried-out a successful airstrike which targeted several #IRGC & #Hezbollah targets inside and near Mezzeh air base, #Damascus minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/nhiUdX2OfR— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) November 19, 2019
Meanwhile, Russia condemned the raid as "an unnecessary escalation of tensions" and as "very wrong" according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
"Recently, the intensity of Israeli rocket and bomb attacks on Syrian territory have increased sharply...This development evokes the most serious concern and opposition in Moscow. We consider it critically important to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and other states in the region," the foreign ministry said.