Syria shoots down 'hostile targets' in suspected Israeli attack
Syrian air defences shot down "hostile targets" on Thursday, state media has said, in an area regional intelligence sources said contains Iran-backed assets, while Russian media said no Israeli jet had been downed as earlier reported.
Russia's RIA news agency, citing a Syrian security source, had earlier reported that air defences had shot down an Israeli war plane and four missiles, but the same source later denied this and Israel's military said the report of the shot down plane was "bogus".
The strikes were the first since Syrian air defences were upgraded following the accidental downing of a Russian plane in September.
Syrian state media said air defences shot down "hostile targets" flying over the town of Kiswah, south of the capital Damascus, and "were able to foil its goals" despite the "intensity of the aggression".
State media quoted a military source but did not specify what the target was or where it came from.
The area where the incident is said to have occurred is where Lebanon's Hezbollah, a group backed by Iran, has its communications and logistics hub for southern Syria near the Israeli border, according to two senior regional intelligence sources.
Among the targets struck were two Syrian army brigades where Hezbollah is embedded alongside a rocket depot close to its bases near the border with Lebanon, another Syrian army defector in touch with military personnel said.
Unlike previous occasions, the Syrian authorities did not blame Israel, the Reuters news agency reported.
The AFP news agency reported that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based activist group, also said on Thursday that Israel bombed several targets near Damascus.
"Israeli forces bombarded for an hour," the Observatory's head Rami Abdurrahman said.
Two missiles hit Kiswah, where he said there are "weapons depots belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah as well as Iranian forces".
Another missile hit the area of Harfa, where there is a Syrian military base, the Observatory said.
In Kiswah, "the depots that were targeted are used to temporarily store rockets until they are taken somewhere else," Abdurrahman said.
"It appears the Israelis had intelligence that weapons had arrived there recently," he said.
Israel has struck dozens of targets in Syria over the course of the seven-year conflict, saying its actions are targeting Iran and its allies.
In September, Israel was accused of being indirectly responsible for a Russian military plane being shot down near the Syrian coast, killing 15 Russian crew members.
The plane was brought down by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile off the coast of the Latakia governorate on 17 September in response to an Israeli raid on Syrian targets.
Israel effectively used the plane as a cover during the attack, according to Moscow.
That incident created tensions between Israel and Russia, another Syrian government ally, with Moscow saying it reserved "the right to take commensurate measures in response".
Also on Thursday, the Israeli army said a missile was fired at the Israeli-occupied, Syrian Golan Heights, but that it remains unclear where the projectile fell, Haaretz reported.
Israeli soldiers were scanning the area, the Israeli newspaper said.