Syria reports Israeli strike in Damascus

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Syrian air defenses on Tuesday intercepted an Israeli missile strike over Damascus, the Syrian capital, state media reported, while military defectors said the missiles may have targeted Iranian-backed militias.

“Syrian air defenses intercepted an Israeli aggression coming from Lebanese airspace,” state media said. Earlier, state media said large explosions were heard.

The incident came nearly a month after Syrian state TV reported that an Israeli helicopter had opened fire on a home in the Syrian Golan Heights, days after it also reported a similar attack by an Israeli helicopter in Quneitra. Also early last month, Syrian state media reported that Israel had fired missiles at towns near Latakia, a regime stronghold and the site of a Russian air base, killing one person and wounding six. 

In late April, Syria attributed an attack near Damascus to Israel, and that same night an anti-aircraft missile launched by Syria toward an Israeli jet exploded near Dimona in southern Israel. Israel’s military said the missile, which set off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, was the result of a misfire and not a deliberate attack. Earlier in April, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Israel had carried out a missile attack near Damascus that killed at least three pro-Iranian fighters.

Western intelligence sources said Israel’s stepped-up strikes on Syria since last year are part of a shadow war approved by the United States. The strikes are also part of an anti-Iran policy that in the last two years has undermined Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major increase in hostilities.

The intelligence sources said that Israel has over the past year expanded its targets across Syria, where thousands of Iranian-backed militias have been involved in regaining much of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar Assad to insurgents in a nearly decade-old civil war.