Syria Says Intercepted Israeli Missile: Iran Militias May Have Been Target

Syrian air defense forces reportedly intercepted an Israeli missile strike over the Syrian capital of Damascus, Syrian state media reported.

The missiles targeted the central and southern regions of Damascus and didn't result in any casualties, the media said. Syrian military defectors said the missiles may have targeted Iranian-backed militias, according to Reuters.

The strikes reportedly hit Homs province, a region that borders central Lebanon. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah, an Islamist political party and militant group, maintains influence and presence in the region.

The Israeli military hasn't yet publicly confirmed the strike. The last confirmed Israeli missile strike occured on May 5. It hit the Mediterranean port of Latakia in Syria's northeastern coast. The attack killed one person and wounded six, according to Haaretz.

Syrian state media said the missile hit a plastic factory and other points along Syria's coast, the Associated Press reported. Syrian air defense said it had shot down other Israeli missiles before they could hit their targets.

Israeli missile Israel Syria Iran militia Damascus
Syrian state media has said that it intercepted an Israeli missile strike and believes that Iranian militias may have been the intended target. A picture taken early on January 21, 2019 shows Syrian air defence batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus. STR / AFP/Getty

In early May, an Israeli helicopter fired upon a home in the Syrian region of Quneitra. The attack wounded one person, according to Syrian state TV.

On April 22, Isreal's military said that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile struck deep inside Israeli territory. The missile set off air raid sirens near a top-secret nuclear reactor. However, the missile is believed to have hit the area due to a misfire.

General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, agreed that the attack was a misfire.

"I think it reflects, actually, incompetence in Syrian air defense, where they were responding to Israeli strikes on targets in Syria," McKenzie told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April. "They fired their missiles, the missiles went ballistic, literally, and followed a parabolic trajectory to Israel."

Isreal's defense system failed to intercept the April 22 missile. Regardless, Israel responded by attacking Syria's missile launcher and other targets in the country.

Western intelligence sources told Reuters that Israel's attacks on Syria have increased over the last two years and are part of a U.S.-approved shadow war. The strikes seek to undermine Iran's military power without setting off a major conflict. As a result, Israel rarely ever publicly acknowledges its Syrian military operations, the Associated Press reported.

Syria doesn't recognize Israel as a state nor does it allow Israeli passport holders to enter Syria. The Israeli government considers Syria an enemy state and forbids citizens from traveling there. The two countries maintain very few, if any, official cultural, economic or diplomatic ties. The two countries have fought on opposing sides in at least six different wars from 1948 to 1982.

Newsweek contacted the U.S. Embassy in Israel for comment.