Just days after Israel launched a combined air and surface-to-surface missile attack against what it claims is an Iranian military base south of Damascus, Israel has again attacked targets inside Syria, this time striking closer to the Syrian capital in the Jamraya area according to early reports.
Jamraya is an area well-known for multiple government facilities, including a branch of Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, which was the site of a major 2013 attack by Israel, but also has sprawling civilian residential areas. It lies on the other side of Mt. Qasioun, against which the Damascus city center is nestled.
“Our air defenses are confronting an Israeli missile attack on one of our sites in the Damascus suburbs and three of the targets were downed,” state news agency SANA said, adding the attacks happened at 11:30 p.m. Monday. Beirut-based Al-Masdar confirmed that the strikes occurred during the evening (Middle East time):
At least two massive explosions ripped through the Syrian capital moments ago as battles for two rebel-held bastions in eastern Damascus continue.
While the reasons for the explosions are still unidentified, some local activists spoke of an Israeli airstrikes that hit Jamraya area (located 3 miles to the northwest of Damascus) where the facility of a very important government-run facility – namely the Scientific Research – is located.
Two witnesses told Reuters late on Monday three strong explosions were heard from the direction of Jamraya. While details are still unclear and unconfirmed, it appears that Israeli jets once again attacked while over Lebanese airspace in order to avoid Syria's sophisticated Russian supplied anti-air defense systems.
First footage of tonight's Israeli airstrikes near Damascus is below:
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According to a follow-up report by Al-Masdar News, Syria intercepted some of the missiles, while others appear to have hit a military site in rural Damascus:
For the second time in 72 hours, the Israeli military has targeted the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions in rural Damascus. According to a military report, the Israeli forces fired at least seven missiles from Lebanon, scoring a direct hit with at least three of the missiles.
The remaining four missiles were intercepted by the Syrian Air Defense above the West Ghouta region of Damascus.
The tempo of Israeli attacks on Syria have intensified over the past months - this as mortar shells fired on Damascus have significantly increased in the last three weeks from the dwindling anti-Assad insurgent stronghold's around the capital. Israel has long sought to weaken and ultimately topple the Syrian government, which it sees as an extension of perceived Iranian hegemony, a years long endeavor which has further involved covert assistance to anti-Assad militants - many of them linked to al-Qaeda.
Though still rarely acknowledged in international reports, Israel has engaged in open acts of war in Syria since at least 2013, when it initially launched a massive missile attack against a Syrian defense technology facility in Jamraya outside of Damascus - the unconfirmed area of tonight's attack.
In 2016 Israel went so far as to target Damascus International Airport, killing a well-known Hezbollah commander. In total the head of Israel's air force has previously acknowledged nearly one hundred IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) attacks on convoys and sites inside Syria over the course of the past 5 years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been more frequent and aggressive in his rhetoric toward both Syria and Iran of late. On Sunday, he told an annual gathering of American and Israeli leaders in Washington hosted by the Brookings Institution (the Saban Forum), “We will not allow a regime hell bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.”