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A picture taken in the Golan Heights on May 14, 2022, shows members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) monitoring the Syrian side of the border with Israel, following an Israeli air strike on central Syria. Image Credit: AFP

DAMASCUS, Syria: Israeli missiles targeted central Syria on Friday, killing five people, including a civilian, and ignited fires in farmlands in the area, Syrian state media reported.

The official news agency SANA said the missiles were fired at the town of Masyaf in the Hama countryside, adding that several of them were shot down by Syrian air defences. An unnamed military official was quoted as saying that five people were killed, including a civilian, and seven were wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syria war monitor, said Israeli aircraft fired at least eight missiles that struck weapons depots and sites belonging to Iranian militias in the Masyaf area, which led to several fires. Ambulances were seen rushing to the area, it added.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on the attack, which the Observatory said was the 12th Israeli attack on Syrian territory since the beginning of the year. The Observatory has a network of activists on the ground in Syria.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. It says it targets bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria and fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government forces, and arms shipments believed to be bound for the militias.

10 killed in rocket attack

Earlier, a rocket attack on a military bus killed 10 soldiers and wounded nine more in northwest Syria on Friday, state news agency SANA reported, in a deadly flare-up near the frontier with rebel-held territory close to the Turkish border.

The bus was hit in the Anjara area west of Aleppo at 9:30am (0630 GMT), SANA said. Militants attacked the vehicle with an anti-tank rocket, it added, giving no further details.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said opposition fighters carried out the attack and that the death toll would likely rise.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Syrian rebel group Ahrar Al Sham posted a video on its Telegram channel on Friday showing a rocket hitting a bus, with a caption saying it showed the moment a military bus belonging to pro-Assad militias was destroyed west of Aleppo.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports or the video.

Hours after the attack, Russian warplanes carried out air strikes on rebel-held areas in the northwest, the Observatory reported, saying it had no immediate information on the results of the air strikes.

The men killed in the attack west of Aleppo were pro-government Shiite fighters from the towns of Nubl and Zahraa, said a pro-Damascus military source and the Observatory, which reports on the war using what it describes as a network of sources on all sides of the war.

The government has relied on local paramilitary forces and allied fighters from countries including Lebanon and Iraq to take back swathes of territory in the 11-year war.

The head of Lebanon’s heavily armed Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has intervened in Syria in support of Al Assad, announced his condolences later on Friday in a televised address.

Northwestern Syria is the last major stronghold of insurgents fighting the government and its allies. Turkish forces, which back some rebel groups, are deployed in the rebel-held area.

The main frontlines in the conflict, which spiralled out of protests against Assad in 2011, have been largely frozen for several years. Russia deployed its air force to Syria in 2015 in support of the Syrian government.