Skip to main content

Israeli missile strikes kill 15 in Syria: Reports

Pro-government commander says Israeli missiles struck army base near Damascus without causing casualties
File photo of Israeli Patriot missile battery (Reuters)

At least 15 pro-government fighters were killed on Tuesday in an Israeli missile strike near Damascus, a monitor said. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that eight Iranians, including members of its Revolutionary Guards and other Iranian-backed combatants, were killed in the strike on the district of Kisweh, south of the capital.

The Observatory's head Rami Abdel Rahman said the strike "targeted weapons stores belonging to the Revolutionary Guard".

Syrian state media said Israel launched missiles at a target near Damascus on Tuesday, shortly after US President Donald Trump announced he was quitting the Iranian nuclear deal, a move that had prompted Israel to go on high alert.

Israel's top general, Gadi Eizenkott, cancelled a scheduled appearance at an annual security conference and was conferring with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other national security chiefs, officials said.

Trump's hard tack against the nuclear deal, while welcomed by Israel, has stirred fears of a possible regional flare-up.

Within two hours of the White House announcement, Syrian state news agency SANA reported explosions in Kisweh, south of Damascus. Syrian air defences fired at two Israeli missiles, destroying both, the agency said.

A commander in the regional alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters that Israel's air force had struck an army base at Kisweh without causing casualties.

Asked about those statements, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: "We do not respond to such foreign reports."

The Israeli military said that, upon identifying "irregular activity" by Iranian forces in Syria, it instructed civic authorities in the Golan Heights to ready bomb shelters, deploy new defences and mobilise some reservist forces, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Repeated Israeli strikes

Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah have backed the Syrian government in a seven-year-old civil war.

Israel has carried out repeated air strikes against them in an attempt to stop a Lebanese-Syrian front to its north.

A 9 April strike killed seven Iranian military personnel at a Syrian airbase. Iran blamed Israel and vowed to retaliate.

Israeli media said Tuesday's order to prepare bomb shelters on the Golan was unprecedented during Syria's civil war. Israel occupied the Golan after capturing and annexing it from Syria in the 1967 war in a move not recognised internationally.

Israel has posted Iron Dome short-range air defences on the Golan, local media said, suggesting that the army anticipates an attack either by ground-to-ground rockets or mortars.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a televised address lauding Trump's Iran policy and alluding to the tensions over Syria.

"For months now, Iran has been transferring lethal weaponry to its forces in Syria, with the purpose of striking at Israel," Netanyahu said. "We will respond mightily to any attack on our territory."

On Twitter, Lieberman said he had spoken to his US counterpart James Mattis and "updated him on regional developments".