Israeli strikes inside Syria pick up tempo in proxy war


Associated Press

BEIRUT

Syria’s military said Israel struck a military installation southwest of Damascus International Airport on Thursday, setting off a series of explosions and raising tensions further between the two neighbors.

Apparently seeking to interrupt weapons transfers to the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, Israel has struck inside Syria with increasing frequency in recent weeks, making the war-torn country a proxy theater for Israel’s wider war with Iran.

The increasing tempo of attacks risks inflaming a highly combustible situation drawing in Israel, Syria and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad’s government with thousands of fighters in Syria.

Israel’s military said Thursday that its Patriot Missile Defense system intercepted an incoming projectile from Syria over the Golan Heights.

An Israeli defense official said the Patriot hit a drone, and the military is checking if it was a Russian aircraft that entered the Israeli side by mistake or if it was Syrian. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with protocol.

Both the Syrian government and Hezbollah, however, are mired in the country’s 6-year-old civil war and are unlikely to carry out any retaliation that may ignite a bigger conflagration with Israel.

Russia, another key Assad ally, denounced what it called an act of “aggression” against Syria. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not directly blame Israel for Thursday’s explosion, but she cited Syrian media as saying Israel was responsible.

In other developments, at least 19 people were killed in air raids across rebel-held Idlib province in the northwest.

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