Smoke rises above Damascus after a claimed Israeli airstrike, December 25, 2018
UPDATE, 1400 GMT:
Russia’s Defense Ministry has put out the line that the purported Israeli missile strike in Syria “directly endangered” two civilian flights.
The Ministry said one of the flights was landing in Beirut and the other in Damascus. It also declared that Assad regime air defences destroyed 14 of 16 missiles launched by six Israeli F-16s.
The spokesman maintained the regime military did not fully engage air defense assets to avoid hitting passenger jets, saying air traffic controllers redirected the Damascus-bound plane to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in western Syria.
Haaretz editor Avi Scharf reports the diversion of at least one flight to Hmeimim.
Russian claim confirmed: As Israeli jets struck Damascus, incoming Syrian flight Cham Wings 514 from Iraq was forced to divert to Latakia
— avi scharf (@avischarf) December 26, 2018
ORIGINAL ENTRY: An Israeli airstrike inside Syria tried to kill several senior Hezbollah officials as they boarded a plane for Iran, according to a US Defense Department official citing top Israeli military counterparts.
Iranian munitions, including advanced GPS components for weaponry, were also targeted in the Tuesday night raid, according to the US official.
Syrian State media said the strikes began about 10 pm. As usual, they claimed that air defenses had downed missiles. But State TV, quoting a military source, said weapons warehouses were hit and three Assad regime troops wounded.
An Iranian 747 cargo jet, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, reportedly landed in Damascus just after 7 pm. The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of transporting Iranian arms to Hezbollah.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) December 25, 2018
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israeli warplanes were operating in Lebanese airspace over the south of the country.
The Israel Defense Forces said they deployed air defenses against an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria,
saying there was no damage or injuries.
Israel has periodically struck Assad regime, Iranian, and Hezbollah targets throughout Syria’s 93-month conflict. The attacks aimed at Iranian transfers of weapons and missiles to Hezbollah and the movement of Iranian and Hezbollah personnel to southwest Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In the past year, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding Iranian military withdrawal from Syria, Israel has expanded the raids to targets Assad regime bases with Iranian personnel.
In May 2016, Hezbollah’s military commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed at Damascus airport. Claims circulated that Israel assassinated him in an airstrike, but no cause was ever established.
Minister Yuval Steinitz refuses to address yesterday's attack details but says: "Netanyahu clearly said we will do everything to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria – and we are. What we see is the iceberg's tip – this is one of Israel's most successful intelligence campaign". https://t.co/oVCyHR3FLB
— Ofer Zalzberg (@OferZalzberg) December 26, 2018