On a day that's already witnessed significant developments along the Syrian-Israeli Golan border region after an overnight evacuation of hundreds of White Helmets members and their families by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israeli jets have reportedly carried out a major airstrike on a Syrian government facility in northwest Syria in Hama province.
Syrian state SANA news has confirmed what it's calling an "Israeli aggression" near the city of Masyaf, indicating the "losses are only material", while early reports in both regional social media and in official Israeli media sources allege the site is a facility for the production and storage of chemical weapons.
The Times of Israel reports that the targeted building is associated with Syria's well-known Scientific Studies and Research Center (or also commonly CERS) near Masyaf.
Arabic press journalist Elijah Magnier says that the attack is unusual in that it took place just before nightfall and not under the cover of darkess as all attacks of the past few weeks and months have been. Magnier, reporting for Middle East-based Al Rai media, further notes that Israeli jets once again fired from above "neutral" Lebanese airspace over the Bekaa Valley, unleashing a volley of three missiles.
Other sources say as many of ten missiles may have been fired, with up to six striking the Syrian government complex, with others possibly intercepted by Syrian air defenses.
Unconfirmed video circulating on Syrian social media purports to show a missile defense intercept in action:
We... fc..... Israeli missiles. 🇸🇾🇸🇾🇸🇾🇸🇾 pic.twitter.com/cybTDBGMjz— maytham (@maytham956) July 22, 2018
The strike came just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israel was continuously acting against Iran’s military activities in Syria, saying in a statement, “We will not stop taking action in Syria against Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence there.”
No formal Israeli government claim of responsibility has been immediately forthcoming.
Despite Netanyahu's warnings that Israel might continue to act against Iranian troops operating in different parts of Syria, local journalists have said throughout Masyaf and the surrounding area that no Iranian or Hezbollah forces exist.
#Pt. Target bombed tonight by #Israel geolocated: military complex N. of #Masyaf. Located 7 km from #Russia|n S-400 Air Defense Systems. NW. #Hama - #Syria. https://t.co/jhbR381vDu pic.twitter.com/N6pSHS8P4q— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) July 22, 2018
According to Syrian-British journalist Danny Makki, reporting from on the ground, "there is no Iranian or Hezbollah presence whatsoever (in Masyaf), the Israel strikes were directly on an official Syrian military facility."
And Lebanese Hezbollah's Al-Mayadeen television channel also affirms the target of the Israeli strike was a research center in the area. A prior Israeli strike hit the same facility in 2017. Syrian sources are reporting possible fatalities in the area as a result of the attack, however, this is not confirmed.