Israeli army says it hit Iranian targets in Syria

Unusual Israeli confirmation of military action comes as Syria says most missiles were shot down by its air defences.

 Syrian air defenses intercepted Israeli missiles targeting an area in Damascus [Youssef Badawi/EPA]
The Israeli military carried out overnight attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, while Syrian state media reported that the country’s air defences have shot down “hostile targets”.

Russia’s defence control centre was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that Syrian military air defences destroyed more than 30 Israeli cruise missiles and guided bombs during the raids.

An attack targeting an airport in southeastern Damascus killed four Syrian soldiers and wounded six, the military centre was quoted by RIA news agency as saying on Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said the toll of the raids was 11.

“We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory. We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement in the early hours of Monday.

The Quds Force is in charge of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ overseas operations. Iran is a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces in the country’s long-running war.

News agency reports quoted witnesses in the Syrian capital, Damascus, as saying that loud explosions rang out in the night sky.

Video posted to social media purports to show missiles intercepted near the city.

Syrian state news agency SANA said the country’s military air defences thwarted “hostile targets” on Sunday night and shot down several of them, without elaborating.

The attacks followed cross-border attacks on Sunday in which Syria said it repelled an Israeli air raid.

Israel said it intercepted a rocket fired at the occupied Golan Heights.

The military statement did not specify where the rocket had been launched from. The northern Golan is also close to Lebanese territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had acknowledged an Israeli attack last week on what he called an Iranian arms cache in Syria, where Tehran provides Damascus with vital support.

He told his cabinet Israel had carried out “hundreds” of attacks over the past years of Syria’s war to curtail Iran and its ally Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Usually silent about its attacks on Iranian targets near its frontier, Israel has lifted the veil this month, a sign of confidence in a campaign waged amid occasional tensions with Russia, which is also backing Assad.