Syrian army says Israel hits southern Damascus in second strike in week

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
·2 min read

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army said early Wednesday that Israel launched air strikes on an area in the southern outskirts of Damascus, where military defectors believe has a strong Iranian military presence in the second such attack within a week.

The Israeli aerial strike on a strategic area that Israel had hit in the past came from the occupied Golan Heights and caused only material damages, the army statement said.

Military defectors said the strike targeted an military base in Jabal Mane Heights near the town of Kiswa, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards have long been entrenched in a rugged area almost 15 km (9.3 miles) south of the center of Damascus.

Strikes that occurred in July also hit towns near Kiswa, where Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia are deployed with other pro-Tehran militias in strength, according to a senior army defector.

The area has anti-aircraft missiles that are stationed to defend the Syrian Golan Heights along the border with Israel, the military sources said.

"We don't comment on these kind of news reports," an Israeli military spokesman told Reuters.

The aerial strikes hit a territory, which is situated in a zone that extends from the southern countryside of Damascus to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights where the growing Iranian presence is viewed as a strategic threat by Israel.

The Syrian army statement said the Israeli aerial strike came from the occupied Golan Heights and caused only material damages.

Israel launched air raids against what it called a wide range of Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria last Wednesday, sending a signal that it will pursue its policy of striking across the border despite U.S. President Donald Trump's election defeat.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has never publicly acknowledged that there are Iranian forces operating on his behalf in Syria's civil war, saying Tehran only has military advisers on the ground.

Western intelligence sources say Israel's stepped-up strikes on Syria in the last few months are a part of a shadow war, approved by Washington and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran's extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.

Israeli defense officials have said in recent months that Israel would step up its campaign against Iran in Syria, where Tehran has expanded its presence with the help of its proxy militias.

(Reporting by Suleiman al Khalidi in Amman, Hesham Abdul Khalek in Cairo and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)