Israeli military personnel look from the Golan Heights over southwest Syria, November 2017 (Reuters)
Israel’s military says it intercepted four rockets fired from southwest Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights before dawn on Tuesday.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement, “[We] identified four launches from Syrian territory toward Israeli territory that were shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system.” It said that it was unlikely any of the rockets struck inside Israel.
Syrian State TV said explosions were then heard near Damascus International Airport, but gave no details of its implication of Israeli retaliation.
The frontline between the Golan and southwest Syria — held by the Assad regime with support from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — had been relatively quiet since Septemeber when Hezbollah fired several anti-tanks missiles at an Israeli base and jeep, just across the border from Lebanon.
But last Tuesday the Israeli military reportedly targeted a senior figure in the Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad, Akram Ajouri. Syrian State agencies and Islamic Jihad said the strike in southwest Damascus killed Ajouri’s son and another person, said to be Ajouri’s bodyguard.
At the same time, Israel killed the Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu el-Atta in a missile attack inside Gaza. The assassination sparked rocket fire into southern Israel, and Israeli assaults killing dozens of Palestinians.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Assad regime, Iranian, and Hezbollah targets during Syria’s 101-month conflict. The attacks initially focused on Iranian transfers of weapons and missiles to Hezbollah and on the movement of Iranian and Hezbollah personnel to southwest Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and expanded across the country in the past 18 months as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded complete Iranian military withdrawal.
The Israeli forces have been focusing on Iranian bases and personnel, repeatedly hitting targets near Damascus and in central and northwest Syria. Those killed reportedly include Iranians directing drone attacks into Israel.
Since the summer, the strikes in Syria have been linked to missile attacks in Lebanon and Iraq on Hezbollah and Iranian-supported militia.