BEIRUT: Four Syrian soldiers and two Iran-backed fighters were killed on Monday in pre-dawn Israeli strikes near Damascus, a war monitor said, in the latest deadly Israeli air raid to hit war-torn Syria’s capital.
The air strikes targeted Syrian forces, and military positions and weapons depots used by armed groups supported by Tehran, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
During more than a decade of war in Syria, neighbouring Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on its territory, primarily targeting Iran-backed forces and Hezbollah fighters as well as Syrian army positions.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, told AFP that “four Syrian soldiers including one officer, as well as two Iran-backed fighters were killed in air strikes on Tehran-supported groups’ positions and warehouses for ammunition and weapons.”
Two Syrian forces and five foreign fighters were wounded in the strikes, he added, saying four of them were in critical condition.
The Israeli strikes hit areas near Damascus International Airport, Dimas Airport and Kisweh, all close to the capital, destroying weapons and ammunition depots belonging to Iran-backed groups, said the Britain-based monitor which relies on a wide network inside Syria.
Earlier Monday, state media said four Syrian soldiers were killed and four others wounded in the strikes, citing a military source.
“At 2:20am (2320 GMT Sunday), the Israeli enemy carried out an air attack from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting areas in the vicinity of Damascus,” official news agency Sana reported.
The raid killed “four soldiers and wounded four others”, it said, reporting unspecified material damage and adding that Syrian air defences intercepted some Israeli missiles.
An AFP correspondent in the capital reported hearing the sound of explosions.
Israel rarely comments on strikes it carries out on Syria, but it has repeatedly said it would not allow its archfoe Iran, which supports the Syrian government, to expand its footprint there.
Asked about Monday’s strikes, an Israeli army spokesperson told AFP in a statement: “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.”
On July 19, Israeli air strikes near Damascus killed three pro-government fighters and wounded four others, the Syrian Observatory said at the time.
Sana had reported two soldiers were wounded in those strikes. It quoted a military source as saying the bombing targeted “certain positions in the vicinity of Damascus”.
Syria’s foreign ministry had condemned that attack “in the strongest terms”.
In a statement carried by Sana, it called on the United Nations and the Security Council to “take immediate action” to oblige Israel “to desist from these criminal policies”.
Early last month, state media said Israel had carried out air strikes near the government-held city of Homs.
The Israeli army later said it struck an anti-aircraft battery after rocket fire.
On June 14, Israel carried out air strikes near Damascus wounding a soldier, according to Sana.
Those strikes came after others which in late May hit the Damascus region, with the Observatory reporting five wounded in attacks on air defence sites that host fighters from Lebanon’s powerful pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah.
Previous Israeli strikes have put both Damascus and Aleppo airports out of service.
And in late March and early April, Israel stepped up its strikes on Syria with four raids on government-held areas in less than a week, targeting positions of Syrian government forces and pro-Iran groups.