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Syria blames Israel for 'attack on Damascus airport'

September 16, 2018

Syrian state media said Damascus had to trigger its air defenses to shoot down Israeli missiles heading for the airport. But an independent war monitor said the missiles were heading for an Iranian arms cache.

Syrian air defenses intercept missile over Damascus
Image: picture-alliance/Xinhua/A. Safarjalani

Israel launched missiles at a target near the Syrian capital of Damascus, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on Sunday.

"Our air defenses responded to an Israeli missile attack on Damascus international airport and shot down a number of hostile missiles," said a military source cited by Syria's SANA news agency.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an independent war monitor that relies on a network of on-the-ground sources, said the missiles had targeted an arms depot near the airport, likely used by Iranian forces or the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

History of attacks

An Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokeswoman said Israel does not comment on reports by foreign media.

However, it would not be the first time Israel has targeted assets on Syrian soil. Earlier this month, an Israeli official said the IDF has hit more than 200 Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.

Read more: Could Germany act as mediator between Israel and Iran?

Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters march alongside Syrian troops. Iran is major supporter of the Lebanese militant group and is accused of supplying the Shiite militants with arms and missiles. Israel has repeatedly said it would target any military assistance to Hezbollah.

Ceasefire on the table

The incident near Damascus airport comes as Turkey reached out to Russia and Iran — both major supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime — to prevent a Damascus-led offensive in the province of Idlib.

Although Turkey, which has supported rebels in Syria, failed to secure a ceasefire agreement, regime warplanes have let up on an aerial campaign in the region.

Read more: Opinion: Battle for Idlib also a fight against terror

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country was in contact with several countries as well as "all actors in Syria" to secure a ceasefire in Idlib.

More than 300,000 people have died and millions more have been displaced since 2011, when a crackdown on peaceful protesters calling for Assad to step down evolved into a multifaceted conflict that has drawn in global powers, regional players and nonstate actors.

Battle for Idlib: Endgame in Syria?

ls/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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