Syria says it repelled Israeli air raid near Damascus

January 20, 2019 - 7:39 am

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian state media say air defenses repelled an Israeli air raid near the international airport south of Damascus on Sunday.

Syrian state TV said the air defenses "prevented" the attack from achieving its goals. It said Israel fired six missiles on an area near Damascus International Airport, of which five were shot down and one diverted to nearby empty farmland. It marked a rare daytime raid, as most previous strikes have been at night.

Residents of the capital said they heard five explosions early Sunday afternoon, apparently the sound of air defenses firing into the air.

Israel's army declined comment on the airstrike. It said that a rocket fired at Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was intercepted by the country's Iron Dome defense system.

Israeli warplanes have used Lebanon's airspace recently to strike deep inside Syria, including on a warehouse near Damascus International Airport earlier this month, according to Syrian state media.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently confirmed that Israel has struck hundreds of targets in Syria linked to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, including a weapons facility two weeks ago. Iran and Hezbollah are allied with the Syrian government in the civil war.

Two hours after the reports that Israel's Iron Dome intercept a rocket fired toward the Golan Heights, Netanyahu, who currently on a visit to Chad, said in a statement: "We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us."

Earlier Sunday, a roadside bomb went off south of Damascus without causing casualties, state media reported. The SANA news agency says the blast targeted a military checkpoint on a main highway during rush hour.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors the war, said the bomb targeted the vehicle of a "security personality" that it did not name. The Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said it was unclear whether the individual was killed or wounded. "It was not a random act," he added.

Attacks have been rare in Damascus since Syrian government forces captured the last rebel-held neighborhoods and suburbs of the capital last year. Bombings have left hundreds dead over the course of the nearly eight-year civil war.

In the northern Syrian town of Afrin, a blast aboard a bus killed at least three people.

The attack came on the anniversary of a Turkish military operation that evicted Kurdish fighters from the town and displaced tens of thousands of its residents. The town now is under the control of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

The Observatory said three people were killed and nine wounded in the explosion. The Syrian Civil Defense, an opposition-linked group known as the White Helmets, said the blast killed "martyrs" and that others were wounded and rushed to hospitals.

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