There was drama in the skies above Damascus Tuesday night as IAF fighter planes attacked strategic targets in and around the Syrian capital.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) was reported to have struck several targets inside Syria Tuesday night, as the regional game of chess following the United States’ announced pull-out from Syria begins to take shape.
Following the President Trump’s recent announcement, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel “may expand its military action.” This action seems to be the first evidence of that assertion and it was significant.
The main target of the IAF strike was alleged to have been an aircraft carrying several Hezbollah leaders on their way to a meeting in Iran. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the leaders were seriously wounded, rather than killed in the strike.
Israel is also thought to have targeted a Syrian Army arms dump near Damascus, with Syrian air defenses going into overdrive to try and repel the attack. In response, a Syrian S-200 missile fired toward Israel was shot down, according to US military sources quoted on Debka, by an Israeli Patriot anti-air missile. The resulting explosion rocked coastal towns between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
“The intruding Syrian missile came from the Damascus region and was aimed at the IAF F-16I jets conducting raids in that region. By the time it was fired, the Israeli jets raiders were over the Golan on their way back to base. These American-sourced reports contradicted the claims in Israel that the attempted interception was conducted by an IDF David’s Sling anti-air missile battery,” according to Debka.
#BREAKING: US DOD source to @Newsweek: Several leaders of Hezbollah havely been hit the Israeli airstrike on Damascus – “Israel’s air strike was conducted minutes after the leaders boarded a plane bound for Iran” pic.twitter.com/15WarAsZGp
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) December 26, 2018
Syrian state media reports claimed they intercepted all the missiles – which if contemporaneous footage and independent reports are to be believed – seems unlikely.
These latest airstrikes constitute the most serious escalation in Israeli action, since Russia warned Israel about its future conduct following the downing – by Syrian air defenses – of a Russian IL-20 aircraft, with the loss of 15 Russian servicemen. The strike also came at a time when Syria is attempting to deal with a major crisis in eastern Syria as the U.S. withdraws.