Israel has launched an attack using jets and ground-to-ground missiles on several military outposts near the Syrian capital of Damascus, Syria’s army said on Tuesday.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused to confirm or deny the bombardment but issued an unusually defiant statement when asked by reporters, declaring Israel would see through its policy of preventing Hezbollah from arming itself in Lebanon “with action”.
Bashar al-Assad’s forces said Israeli jets fired missiles at the al-Qutayfah area near Damascus from inside Lebanese airspace, according to a statement reported by state media. Returning fire, the Syrian army said it hit an Israeli aircraft.
Israel then fired ground-to-ground rockets from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, but Syrian defences brought the missiles down before they reached their targets, the Syrian army claimed.
It added Israeli jets fired a final barrage of four rockets from inside Israel, and the Syrian air defences brought down one, but the others caused material damage.
Syrian solidarity with baby who lost eye during government shelling
Israel has previously said it will prevent Syrian territory being used to set up bases or transfer advanced weaponry to the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, which has been a key ally for Assad in the six-year Syrian civil war. Last August, the chief of the Israeli air force said his forces had struck in Syria around 100 times to this end.
Mr Netanyahu said at a meeting of ambassadors from Nato countries in Israel on Tuesday that those policies had not changed.
“We have a longstanding policy to prevent the transfer of game-changing weapons to Hezbollah from Syrian territory,” Mr Netanyahu said. “This policy has not changed, we back it up as necessary with action.”
Vladimir Putin pulls troops out of Syria: ‘The motherland awaits you, friends’
The Syrian army statement described the attack as “flagrant Israeli aggression” and renewed its warning of the dangerous repercussions of such attacks, holding Israel “fully responsibility for its consequences.”
Some Syrian opposition-affiliated media reported that the Israeli planes targeted a Syrian army depot while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the depots belonged to both Hezbollah and the Syrian army, adding that the strikes caused a series of explosions and a fire on site as well as serious material damage.
The Observatory, which monitors the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said there was no immediate word on any casualties.
The exact target of the strikes could not be independently confirmed.
Al-Qutayfah is in the northeastern suburbs of Damascus, where Syrian Republican Guard units are known to have major outposts.