Latest Israeli raid on Damascus airport area highlights lingering tensions with Iran

Arab media reports that an Israeli airstrike on an arms depot near Damascus airport left a number of Syrian government soldiers and pro-Iranian militia fighters dead.

Syrian television reported that government anti-aircraft missiles responded to Israeli airstrikes that took place early Saturday morning in the Damascus airport area. This is the latest Israeli attack on Syrian territory since Israeli missiles hit targets at Aleppo airport on September 6.

Ramy Abdel Rahman, of the Britain-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Arab media that five government soldiers and two pro-Iranian militia fighters were killed in the strikes Israeli airlines at night.

He notes that it was unclear whether the Israeli attack was inside or outside the direct perimeter of Damascus airport, but says the explosion of an arms depot which was targeted could be heard not far from an area controlled by fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Israeli media said the attack was the 25th by Israeli forces on Syrian territory so far this year. Saudi Arabian TV channel al-Arabiya reported that pro-Iranian militias recently withdrew from their positions near Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria over “fears of security breaches”.

In addition to the strike against pro-Iranian militias near Damascus airport, Israeli attacks included positions near the Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeinab, al-Kuswa and an area called Ghasoula Farms. The Lebanese Hezbollah militia is said to be stockpiling rockets and drones in the area.

Syrian analyst Bassam Tallab told state television that several foreign governments, including Turkey, Israel and the United States, were “pursuing aggressive policies inside Syrian territory in the north and east of the country”. , claiming that the ongoing conflict in Syria “serves Israeli interests”.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA that despite the Russian presence in Syria, Israel continues to attack the arms stockpiles of pro-Iranian militias in the country when it believes that they pose a threat.

He said Saturday’s attack was just another attack targeting Iranian military infrastructure in Syria, including Tehran’s efforts to supply Lebanese Hezbollah with precision-guided missiles and other weapons from the Iranian military complex in Syria and elsewhere.

Russia recently withdrew one of its S-300 missile defense systems from the Syrian coastal region near Latakia, taking it to Crimea, as its conflict with Ukraine continues. It is unclear whether this prompted more aggressive Israeli targeting of Syrian territory.

Abu Diab said tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah “could spark a conflict at some point” amid the ongoing dispute over the two countries’ maritime borders and offshore gas resources.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah reportedly threatened on Saturday to target Israel’s offshore gas operations, amid tensions.

Joshua Landis, who directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told VOA: “Iran and Israel are fighting in Syria,” and that “high-stakes negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capability has reached a crescendo, which in part explains the more dramatic attacks on Iran in Syria.”

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