An Israeli strike on Iranian positions near Damascus, Syria, August 24, 2019

Israel carried out its latest strikes inside Syria on Sunday night, targeting positions of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In a rare acknowledgement of operations, the Israel Defense Forces said it struck after waves of rocket attacks by Islamic Jihad earlier in the evening: “IDF fighter jets struck terror sites belonging to the PIJ terror group south of Damascus in Syria, as well as dozens of PIJ sites throughout the Gaza Strip.”

Islamic Jihad said two fighters were killed and vowed to respond. Rocket fire continued from Gaza into southern Israel in and near the town of Sderot. The IDF said about 30 rockets and mortar shells were fired, approximately half of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The exchange of fire came after Israeli troops shot and killed a man on the Gaza border and retrieved his body with a bulldozer. The Israeli military said the victim was an Islamic Jihad member planting an improvised explosive device.

The IDF said it hit the main base of Islamic Jihad in Syria, a complex with Iranian personnel in the Damascus suburb of al-Adleyeh.

The military said the site is deveoloping new weapons, manufacturing rocket fuel, and conducting training exercises: “The IDF will respond aggressively to the terrorist activities of the Islamic Jihad, which endanger the citizens of Israel and harm its sovereignty.”

Assad regime outlets, including State news agency SANA, issued their template statement that air defenses had “confronted [missiles] with high competence, and destroyed the majority of them before reaching their targets”. As usual, no evidence was produced of the supposed interceptions.

Israel has carried out hundreds of missile strikes inside Syria since the Syrian uprising of March 2011 against Assad regime, Iranian, and Hezbollah targets.

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. They expanded across the country from 2017 as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded complete Iranian military withdrawal.

Since then, the Israeli forces have been focusing on Iranian bases and personnel, repeatedly hitting targets near Damascus and in central and northwest Syria.

Since last summer, Israel’s strikes in Syria have been linked to missile attacks in Lebanon and Iraq on Hezbollah and Iranian-supported militia.