Syria downs ‘hostile targets’ in suspected Israeli attack

(AFP)
Updated 30 November 2018
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Syria downs ‘hostile targets’ in suspected Israeli attack

  • Syrian state media said air defenses shot down “hostile targets” flying over the town of Kiswah
  • Among the targets struck were two Syrian army brigades where Lebanon’s Hezbollah group is embedded

AMMAN/JERUSALEM: Syrian air defenses shot down “hostile targets” on Thursday, state media said, in an area regional intelligence sources said contains Iran-backed assets, while Russian media said no Israeli jet had been downed as earlier reported.
Russia’s RIA news agency, citing a Syrian security source, had reported that air defenses had shot down an Israeli war plane and four missiles, but the same source later denied this and Israel’s military said the report was “bogus.”
Syrian state media said air defenses shot down “hostile targets” flying over the town of Kiswah, south of the capital Damascus, and “were able to foil its goals” despite the “intensity of the aggression.
State media quoted a military source but did not specify what the target was or where it came from.
The area where the incident is said to have occurred is where Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a group backed by Iran, has its communications and logistics hub for southern Syria near the Israeli border, according to two senior regional intelligence sources.
Among the targets struck were two Syrian army brigades where Lebanon’s Hezbollah group is embedded alongside a rocket depot close to its bases near the border with Lebanon, another Syrian army defector in touch with military personnel said.
Unlike previous occasions, the Syrian authorities did not blame Israel.
Israel is concerned that Iran’s growing presence in Syria poses a threat to its own security and has struck dozens of Iranian and Iran-backed positions in Syria over the course of the country’s seven-year conflict.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Twitter: “In the course of Syrian ground-to-air missile fire, (Israel’s) air defenses sighted a single trajectory toward an open area of the Golan Heights.”
“At this stage it remains unclear whether there was indeed an impact in our territory. Our forces are scouring the area. Furthermore, the report about a strike on an Israeli aircraft or an Israeli aerial target are bogus,” said the statement.
A Syrian opposition figure familiar with the area where the incident occured said its proximity to the Syrian Golan Heights made it a hub for the recruitment of Iran-backed militias and their deployment across the strategic border area with Israel.
“Israel has targeted this area because the Syrian army barracks there have become a recruiting ground for Hezbollah and their militias to deploy in Quneitra,” Said Seif told Reuters.
Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and supports a number of militias that have fought alongside the Syrian army and its allies.
Tehran has in recent months expanded its military presence in southern Syria after insurgents were driven out, with Hezbollah, by far the biggest of the Iranian-backed militias expanding its foothold there, according to regional security sources.
Opposition sources say Hezbollah now plays a commanding role in the Quneitra province that neighbors the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where it is believed to be training allied militias and hundreds of former rebels.
The sources said this was the first major attack since Israel scaled down its attacks in Syria after the accidental shooting down of a Russian surveillance plane over two months ago.
The Sept. 17 downing by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, after Israeli jets attacked a suspected Iranian arms shipment to Syria, caused a diplomatic rift between Israel and Russia, and Moscow blamed Israel for the incident.


Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

Updated 14 December 2018
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Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

  • The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians
  • Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third

AMMAN: Israel was accused on Thursday of humiliating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by placing Ramallah on virtual lockdown amid a 24-hour outbreak of violence in which five people died.

The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians suspected of earlier attacks. Salah Barghouti, 29, was accused of shooting seven Israelis on Sunday at a bus station near the Ofra settlement. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, shot two Israelis dead in the Barkan industrial zone settlement in October.

Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third when he opened fire at the Ofra bus station.

Israeli forces chased the gunman into Ramallah, where they set up road blocks, launched raids and placed the town under virtual siege. In the hunt for the gunman, a Palestinian was shot dead in Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah.

Abbas Zaki, a leading Fatah official, told Arab News Palestinian frustration was being fueled by Israel. “They barged into Ramallah in violation of existing agreements and came very close to the home of President Abbas.

“What more do people need to see to let them give up on a process when Israelis are willing to humiliate in such a way the father of Palestinian peace?”

Abbas himself condemned the anti-Israeli attacks but blamed Israeli raids as a potential cause.

“The climate created by the policy of repeated intrusions into the cities, the provocations against the sovereignty of the president and the lack of a horizon for peace are what led to this unacceptable violence that we condemn and reject,” he said.