Syria’s capital Damascus was rocked by multiple explosions late on Sunday, and the country’s air defenses fired back in the latest attack by Israel on targets in Syria.
State media said air defenses confronted a wave of “enemy rockets” coming from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In a rare move, the Israeli military claimed responsibility through a spokesman on Twitter, saying it staged a series of strikes targeting the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in Syria and the Gaza Strip.
Residents said multiple explosions shook Damascus and lasted for about 15 minutes as air defenses fired back. It was not immediately clear what targets were hit.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, said the explosions resulted from Israeli bombing of suspected Iranian-backed militias in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.
The Syrian state news agency Sana said “most of the enemy missiles were shot down before reaching their targets,” stressing that “no airport” was struck.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, mainly targeting government forces as well as allied Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters.
Israel frequently strikes at targets inside Syria, but has largely refrained from public admissions of its covert military operations there.
A missile attack blamed on Israel in mid-February killed three Syrian and four Iranian fighters in the Damascus airport area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Iran is an ally of Damascus and has offered military advisers and sent militiamen and material support to help President Bashar Assad’s government forces in the nine-year civil war.
Israel considers Iran a national security threat and says it won’t tolerate Iran’s presence on its borders.