Al Jazeera – 2018-01-10 19:22:57
Syrian Army: Israel Launches Air Strikes near Damascus
DAMASCUS (January 9, 2018) — Israel launched a series of predawn air strikes then followed up with artillery fire on an army base near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syria’s military said. The allegation was not denied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when questioned by reporters later on Tuesday.
Israeli jets fired missiles at the Qutayfeh area northeast of Damascus from inside Lebanese airspace at 2:40am local time (00:40 GMT), causing the Syrian army to retaliate and “hit one of its planes”, the Syrian army said in a statement broadcast on state television.
UK-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the air strikes targeted Syrian army and Hezbollah weapons depots, igniting “successive explosions and fires, causing material damage”.
After the air raids, Israel also launched rockets from the occupied Golan Heights, but the Syrian military intercepted them, the army statement said.
When asked about the alleged attacks inside Syria, Netanyahu said Israel was ready to stop weapons from reaching the Lebanon-based Hezbollah armed group, which has backed the Syrian government in its nearly seven-year civil war with rebel forces.
“We have a long-standing policy to prevent the transfer of game-changing weapons to Hezbollah in Syrian territory,” the Israeli prime minister was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel.
“This policy has not changed. We back it up, if necessary, with action,” Netanyahu added, without confirming or denying attacks were launched inside Syrian territory.
The report said the Israeli military wouldn’t comment on the alleged attacks.
Israel Air Strikes Iranian military bases near Damascus Syria (December 2017)
Syria fires missiles at Israeli aircraft after Israeli missiles hit near Damascus (December 2017)
Syria wrote a letter to the UN Security Council demanding that it condemn Israel’s cross-border strikes. Syria’s foreign ministry also accused Israel of launching the attacks in support of opposition fighters.
“The recurring Israeli attacks on Syria will not succeed in protecting the terrorist organisations, which are Israel’s partners and proxies,” the official news agency SANA quoted the ministry as saying.
It said Israel was “primarily” assisting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a former al-Qaeda affiliate.
“The Syrian government once again warns Israel of the serious repercussions of its attacks on Syria and its support for armed terrorist organisations,” the ministry said.
Meanwhile, SANA reported that rebel shelling of the capital killed five people and wounded 30 others on Tuesday.
It said 15 artillery shells hit the central, predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Bab Touma, adding Damascus has been targeted on a near-daily basis in recent weeks.
Children Dead in Syria Bombardments
As UN Aid Chief Visits
BEIRUT (January 9, 2018) — Ten children were among 24 people killed in strikes on a rebel enclave near the Syrian capital on Tuesday, a monitor said as the UN’s humanitarian chief paid his first visit to the country.
Either regime or Russian aircraft were responsible for the raids, the most deadly of which killed 13 civilians including seven children in the Hammuriyeh district of Eastern Ghouta, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Rebels bombarded two districts of the capital in retaliation, with Syrian state media reporting four people were killed.
Eastern Ghouta has been under government siege since 2013 and its estimated 400 000 inhabitants are suffering severe shortages of food and medicine.
The deadliest strikes hit the Hammuriyeh district, while more than 80 people were wounded in the bombardments of the rebel territory, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.
An AFP correspondent saw a rescuer emerge from the rubble carrying a child, as a man trapped up to his waist waited for people to dig him out.
The latest bloodshed in Syria’s war — which is estimated to have claimed the lives of 340 000 people since 2011 — came as UN humanitarian boss Mark Lowcock discussed getting aid to civilians.
Lowcock, who took over as under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs in September, met with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem as the UN seeks greater access to besieged populations.
After arriving in Damascus, Lowcock tweeted that he would meet government and “other key stakeholders and see first-hand humanitarian situation & response”.
The United Nations has said some 500 people are in critical condition inside Eastern Ghouta and need to be evacuated for urgent medical treatment.
Twenty-nine patients, mainly children, were allowed out in December under a deal struck between the regime and rebels.
Eastern Ghouta was one of four “de-escalation zones” agreed under a deal between rebel and regime backers but the opposition stronghold remains the target of intense regime air strikes.
Syrian state news agency Sana also reported that Israeli jets and missiles struck regime positions overnight northeast of Damascus.
The agency said the Syrian army had hit an Israeli plane as they rebuffed the attack, but added missiles had caused damage.
Israel has sought to remain on the sidelines of the Syrian conflict but has carried out air raids against regime forces and allied fighters from Lebanese group Hezbollah.
The Observatory said the night raids targeted army and Hezbollah weapons depots.
Syria’s protracted conflict has tipped dramatically in the favour of President Bashar al-Assad thanks in major part to a two-year military intervention by Moscow.
Assad’s forces are currently conducting an operation to carve out territory in the northwestern Idlib province, the last one in Syria that had remained fully beyond their control.
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