Russia blamed Israel on Wednesday for launching an airstrike on Tuesday night near Damascus, threatening civilian flights.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov accused Israel of launching a “provocative” raid consisting of six Israeli F-16 jets simultaneously as two commercial airliners were about to land in the Syrian capital and Beirut, enabling a “direct threat” to the planes.
Konashenkov claimed that Syrian forces shot down 14 of 16 Israeli missiles, with the remaining two striking a Syrian military base about 4.3 miles west of Damascus, wounding a few Syrian soldiers. It was unclear if the advanced Russian-made S-300 missile-defense system was used.
Israel said that it deployed air-defense systems in Hadera in response to a retaliatory missile fired from Damascus, and that there were no injuries or damage.
Newsweek reported that, according to a U.S. Defense Department source citing an Israeli military official, the Israeli operation targeted several senior members of the Hezbollah terror organization as they boarded a plane to Iran.
Syrian state media said that airstrikes carried out from Lebanese airspace starting at 10 p.m. hit a Hezbollah base in Al-Dimas, a weapons depot at a Syrian army 4th division base in Sabura, the Syrian 10th Division command in Qatana, Syrian air defense in Attal, and the 68th Brigade and 137th Battalion in Khan-al-Sheikh.
Initial news reports tied the strike to the arrival of a 747 cargo jet belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm. Israel was said to have targeted Iranian shipments of advanced GPS components meant to help Hezbollah convert its rocket arsenal into precision-guided missiles.
The company had been accused of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah in the past, but it was unclear whether the plane was carrying several Hezbollah officials who had allegedly boarded a plane at the same airport that evening bound for Tehran.