A dozen killed in Israeli airstrike on Syria, reports say

Syria’s state news agency maintained that the country’s air defenses successfully shot down most of the missiles.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An airstrike blamed on Israel hit Syrian army positions and pro-Iranian militia near Damascus in the early hours of Thursday morning, Syria’s Sana news agency reported.

“Our air defenses confronted an Israeli attack,” between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. in two waves, the regime’s mouthpiece said.

The report said that the army successfully shot down most of the incoming missiles, which it claimed were launched from airspace above South Lebanon and the Golan Heights. In terms of casualties, Sana said eight soldiers were injured and some damage was also caused.

The opposition’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has observers on the ground, said that 12 Syrians and Iran-backed fighters were killed in all, in positions held by pro-Iranian forces near the Syrian capital and at the Mazzeh military air base that is located just outside Damascus. Other media reports have the number of dead at 14

The group said that a “large number of missiles” caused a fire at the Scientific Studies and Research Center in the Damascus suburb of Jamraya. Ostensibly a civilian center, intelligence experts believe that one of the Center’s main projects is the development of biological and chemical weapons.

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The Center consists of several facilities. In January 2013, Israeli forces allegedly struck a convoy parked at the same branch in Jamraya. The convoy was reportedly carrying advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist organization, and the facility was partially damaged in the ensuing explosions.

A Free Syrian Army source said at the time that a senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a number of his aides were killed there as well.

Israel has not commented on the strike, which according to Syrian media is the third attack in as many months on Syrian and pro-Iranian groups in the country.

Last month, the Syrian army claimed Israel had hit the T4 air base in Homs that is used by Iranian forces. Israel has admitted to striking the base on several past occasions.

Jerusalem has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily on its northern border.

In December, Syrian state television reported that its air defenses had shot down Israeli missiles over Damascus, but provided no other details.