Syria says Israeli planes target military positions

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said several explosions had been heard in the areas around Masyaf and Wadi Al Uyoun near Hama city

Beirut: Israeli planes targeted military positions in Syria on Tuesday, but Syrian air defences confronted and downed some of the rockets, state news agency SANA.

Citing a military source SANA said that Israeli aircraft had targeted “our military positions in the provinces of Tartous and Hama”.

“The enemy missiles were dealt with and some of them were shot down,” SANA said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said several explosions had been heard in the areas around Masyaf and Wadi Al Uyoun near Hama city, areas where there are Iranian military facilities.

The Observatory’s head Rami Abderahman said the attack had also targeted around the coastal city of Baniyas for the first time, with two rockets hitting around one kilometre from an oil refinery.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

Syrian state television said air defences downed five rockets.

SANA said the planes had come at a low altitude from west of neighbouring Lebanon’s coastal capital Beirut.

Reuters journalists in Beirut heard unusually loud aircraft sounds shortly before the strikes were reported in Syrian media.

Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen news said Israeli fighter planes released countermeasures against anti-aircraft fire “and withdrew towards the sea at the same time as the sounds of explosions were heard in Hama countryside.” 

Meanwhile, an Israeli military official said on Tuesday the army had carried out some 200 strikes in Syria over the past 18 months against mainly Iranian targets, a rare confirmation of such action.

A total of 202 strikes were carried out in neighbouring Syria, the official said, all of which involved “military targets, most of them belonging to the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guards”.

Around 800 missiles and bombs were used in the strikes, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm the details first reported in various Israeli media.

Israel has pledged to prevent its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran is backing President Bashar Al Assad in the ongoing civil war.

A series of strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria have been attributed to Israel in recent months, but the Israeli military rarely confirms them.

Israel has previously acknowledged carrying out dozens of strikes in Syria against what it describes as advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group.

Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, is another of Israel’s enemies which is backing Assad in the Syrian conflict.

The rare confirmation of strikes comes after Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman signalled his country could hit Iranian targets in Iraq if they threatened Israel.

“We will face any Iranian threat, no matter where it comes from,” Lieberman said Monday.

The defence minister was speaking following reports that Iran had provided ballistic missiles to allied Shiite militias in Iraq in recent months.

“Our freedom of action is total,” Lieberman added.

The Israeli military official did not comment directly on those reports on Tuesday, but said the army was aware of missile transfers from Iran to Iraq and then on to Syria.

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