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IAF Jets Pound Arms Depot in Damascus; Missile Defense System Activated

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On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet visited the North to receive an update on the IDF operation to destroy Hezbollah's terror tunnels discovered along the Israeli-Lebanese border. "The IDF is prepared and prepared for every scenario, and I take this opportunity to salute the commanders and IDF soldiers who guard us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Netanyahu said. Photo Credit: GPO

It was reported on late Tuesday night in Israel that Syrian air defense systems intercepted missiles near Damascus following an attack, according to what was reported in the Syrian media. The echo of explosions was heard throughout the Syrian capital.

A special broadcast was shown on Syrian television, during which it was said that “Israel continues its aggression.”

Syrian state media reported Tuesday night that regime air defenses intercepted “hostile targets” west of Damascus during an alleged Israeli air strike, which according to local reports involved 22 missiles targeting sites including weapons depots belonging to pro-Iranian militias in Damascus, as was reported by the Jerusalem Post.

Hezbollah news channel Al Manar claimed IAF jets staged false strikes to distract from the real goal of the operation.

News reports made the connection between the timing of the Israeli strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m, as was reported in the Times of Israel.

As a matter of policy, Israel does not respond to such accusations. “An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the official Israeli army Twitter account later said.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah, as was reported by the Times of Israel. By midnight, the flight was en route back to Iran. The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has substantially diminished in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

The Iranian made “Fajar” missile was among the weaponry that was targeted in the Israeli raid on arms depots in southern Syria on Tuesday

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system. The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

On Tuesday, Lebanese media reported that the Israel Air Force was operating in southern Lebanon, but it was unclear whether there was any connection between the reports. According to a JPost report, Israel’s elaborate missile defense system known as the Arrow was activated late Tuesday night. Media reports claimed that Israel struck weapon warehouses near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

There were no damages or injuries to Israeli troops, the IDF Spokesperson said in a statement.

JPost indicated that according to unconfirmed Israeli reports, the launch was carried out from the “northern city of Hadera, with pictures published on social media of a large tail of smoke heading into the sky and residents in the Hefer Valley Regional Council also reported hearing the sound of loud explosion.”

It is still unclear whether any Syrian missiles were intercepted from the IDF’s reported perspective.

The JPost report indicated that other locations reported by the Syrian media to have been hit during the strike include pro-Iranian military positions located in the suburbs of Damascus, air defense facilities and headquarters of the 68th Brigade and the 137th Brigade of the Syrian Army in the Damascus area, a military headquarters belonging to the 4th Division of the Syrian Army in the Al-Muna area surrounding Damascus and military Unit 10 in the district of Qatana.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, the official Syrian news agency SANA reported that a Syrian military official claimed, “Israeli air force planes attacked tonight, most of the missiles were intercepted before hitting targets.” It was also reported that three Syrian soldiers were wounded and that an ammunition depot was damaged in the attack, according to the JPost report.

SANA said the strikes began at approximately 10 p.m. and were carried out from Lebanon. A number of targets were intercepted.

Smoke rises past a mountain as seen from Damascus countryside, Syria on December 25, 2018

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor. “Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

The JPost reported that on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet visited the North to receive an update on the IDF operation to destroy Hezbollah’s terror tunnels discovered along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

INN reported that on Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to the attacks in Syria and Israel’s military situation, saying, “Israel is ranked eighth in the world, and it is unbelievable. It is because we are systematically nurturing the strength of the IDF and the strength of the security bodies–the Mossad and the Shin Bet–which carry out daring operations for the security of the State of Israel and the safety of its citizens.”

“We are continuing with a firm hand to prevent Iran’s military buildup in Syria, and we are about to complete the dismantling of the tunnels in which Hezbollah has invested so much, just as we are about to end the disarming of tunnels in which Hamas has invested so much,” Netanyahu said.

“The IDF is prepared and prepared for every scenario, and I take this opportunity to salute the commanders and IDF soldiers who guard us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

INN reported that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) conducted a number of strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria in recent years, according to Kann news.

Israel was involved in the fight against ISIS in more ways than intelligence sharing with the Western coalition. According to the report, Israel struck ISIS targets not only in Syria but possibly also in Egypt’s Sinai.

Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said he “could now say” Israel played a critical role in the fight against ISIS in the region. Speaking at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Eizenkot summarized the last four years of IDF activity. “The campaign against Iran and Hezbollah is largely hidden from the public eye,” he said. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

i24 News notes the report comes two days after outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said he “could now say” Israel played a critical role in the fight against ISIS in the region.

Speaking at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Eizenkot summarized the last four years of IDF activity.

“The campaign against Iran and Hezbollah is largely hidden from the public eye,” he said.

He added that, “The American decision to withdraw troops is significant, but it should not be exaggerated. For decades, we have dealt with this front alone. That’s also how it has been over the past four years, during the American and Russian presence in Syria. We have been acting in support of Israel’s security interests, adding that the Americans make the decision when the relationship between the armies is at its peak.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders, and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State, according to a JPost report.

The JPost reported that several people on the ground filmed the rockets shooting skyward, thought to be S-200 air defense, which is the main system Syria uses. Locals reported debris and missile strikes near Dimas, Qatana, Saboura and near Mazzah all west of Damascus. Some of these areas have been targeted in the past.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the US-led coalition in Syria conducted air strikes last week that destroyed facilities used by so-called Islamic State, the coalition said, less than a week after President Trump declared victory over the radical Islamist terror group and said he would withdraw US troops from the war-torn country.

The coalition said its attacks during the week of December 16-22, including air strikes and “coordinated fires,” had destroyed logistics facilities and staging areas used by IS, damaged the group’s ability to finance its activities and “removed several hundred ISIS fighters from the battlefield.”

“ISIS presents a very real threat to the long-term stability in this region and our mission remains the same, the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said UK Major General Christopher Ghika, the deputy commander of the coalition. That statement presents a contrast to Trump’s declaration last week that US troops had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State and were no longer needed in the country.

The withdrawal may also leave exposed an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militants known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which has been among the most effective against Islamic State, but is now seen under threat as Turkey weighs a new offensive in Syria.

It comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will most probably meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin face-to-face to discuss the US withdrawal from Syria.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will travel to Russia in the coming days to discuss the same issue, broadcaster CNN Turk quoted him as saying.

Erdogan’s spokesman has previously said Turkey would increase co-ordination with Russia in Syria following the US decision to withdraw. Erdogan and Trump have also agreed to co-ordinate to prevent a power vacuum from developing, Turkey has said.

Cavusoglu told reporters at a briefing that Turkey aimed to cross to the east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria as soon as possible. Turkey and the US have also agreed to complete their agreement on the Syrian town of Manbij by the time the US finishes its withdrawal, Cavusoglu also said, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency.

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