Israel Strikes Iranian, Hezbollah Targets in Syria Leaving Multiple Civilians Dead
Concerned about the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria, Israel launched an offensive into Syria which left six civilians dead on Monday.
In air raids on Syrian territories, six Syrian civilians including a baby were reportedly killed early on Monday, July 1, as the Syrian News Agency (SANA) reported. Casualties would have been more if not for Syria’s air defense system which intercepted the bulk of the Israeli missiles.
SANA said that six missiles, believed to have been fired by Israeli warplanes and gunships from Lebanese air space, off the coast near Lebanon, hit the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus at dawn, causing the injuries to at least nine other people, including military personnel.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that air raids on both Homs and Damascus targeted military facilities, including a research center and a military airport, where there are Iranian personnel and elements of the Islamist Lebanese Hezbollah party. The rights group reported that 15 people were killed during the Monday air raid and gunship attacks.
The Almayadeen Lebanese TV reported that one of the Israeli missiles hit the Alkiswa area, near Damascus, an area that has been previously targeted by air raids and is said to contain a weapons warehouse.
Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot foreign minister Kudret Ozersay stated on Monday that a part of a Russian missile hit a mountainside area on the island of Cyprus, north of the capital Nicosia, with no casualties reported. The foreign minister believed that the shrapnel was apparently a part of the Syrian air defense system that was launched in an attempt to defend against the Israeli raids.
“The first assessment is that a Russian-made missile, which was part of the air defense system that took place last night in the face of an air strike against Syria, completed its range and fell into our country after it missed,” Ozersay said in a social media post.
Israel officials recently issued warnings about the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah members in Syria. The officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, repeatedly stated that Israel will not tolerate the Lebanese Hezbollah party developing fighting capabilities against Israel.
Moscow Reacts to the Strikes
Speaking to Ynet, an Israeli online English-language newspaper, former Israeli intelligence chief and director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Amos Yadlin, said on Monday that the strikes, believed to have been carried out by Israel, indicate that Syria’s key ally, Russia, understands Israel’s security concerns across Syria. Yadlin noted that Hezbollah and Iranian forces were still present in Syrian territories despite an earlier Russian promise to remove them.
On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the Israeli aggression on the Syrian territories violated Syria’s sovereignty and posed a threat to regional stability.
Though Damascus has been frequently exposed to air raids, believed to have been carried out by Israeli air forces, Israel has remained silent about Monday’s raids and previous ones that have rendered many points of infrastructure, either partially or completely, destroyed.
A Country Plagued by Civil War
No Syrian official reaction to the air raid was reported. The Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has always maintained the right to self-defense in the right time and place. Since 2011 the Arab Republic of Syria, home to nearly 19 million residents, has endured a civil war, sparked by mass protests demanding social and economic reforms.
Since the onset of the war, hundreds of thousands have been killed or injured, while millions more have been displaced. In recent years Russia has become a key ally for the Syrian regime, intervening in the war and helping Syria defeat armed opposition groups.