Syria says Israeli warplanes hit Damascus airport warehouse

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Damascus has been under missile attack by US in the past. (AP)
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An Israeli C-130 Hercules plane launches anti-missile flares. (File/ AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Syria says Israeli warplanes hit Damascus airport warehouse

  • SANA news agency says most of the missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defenses
  • Israel is widely believed to have been behind a series of airstrikes in Syria that have mainly targeted Iranian and Hezbollah forces

DAMASCUA/BEIRUT: Missiles fired by Israeli warplanes struck a warehouse at Damascus International Airport late on Friday, causing damage but no casualties, a Syrian military official said.

Quoting an unidentified official, the official SANA news agency said the warplanes fired a number of missiles toward the Damascus area, triggering Syrian air defenses that shot down most of them.

Most of the missiles fired by “Israeli military planes” were intercepted at around 11:00 p.m., the source said.

“Only a Ministry of Transport warehouse at Damascus international airport was hit,” the Syrian state news agency cited the military source as saying.

The official said Israeli aircraft coming from the south fired several missiles at areas near Damascus about 45 minutes before midnight. He said Syrian air defense units shot down most of the missiles, but gave no details on other sites targeted.

“The results of the aggression so far were limited to a strike on one of the warehouses at Damascus airport,” SANA said.

The state media also broadcast footage of what it said were the air defenses firing, with bright lights seen shooting across the night sky. Explosions were heard in one of the videos.

 

Areas under target

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said the attack was broader than usual, targeting areas ranging from the eastern Damascus suburb of Dmeir to Kiswa south of capital all the way to the village of Dimas in the west near the Lebanon border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said airstrikes targeted an area near the airport while others hit the area of Kiswa, which is home to positions and storage sites for Iranian and Hezbollah forces allied with Syria’s government.

“Two areas hosting military positions of Iranian forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement have been targeted,” the monitor said.

The airport is running normally, according to the state news agency that quoted a Transport Ministry source as saying.

There was no immediate word from Israel, which rarely comments on such attacks. Israel is widely believed to have been behind a series of airstrikes in Syria that have mainly targeted Iranian and Hezbollah forces.

It was the first airstrike on the Damascus area this year since Israeli warplanes struck areas near the capital on Christmas Day. In last month’s incident, Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon fired missiles toward areas near Damascus, hitting an arms depot and wounding three soldiers.

Israeli drones and warplanes were heard flying on Friday afternoon over Lebanon.

Russia announced it had delivered the S-300 air defense system to Syria in October. That followed the Sept. 17 downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces responding to an Israeli airstrike, a friendly fire incident that stoked regional tensions.

Israel has mounted attacks in Syria as part of its effort to counter the influence carved out there by Iran, which has supported President Bashar Assad in the war that erupted in 2011.

The last Israeli attack reported by Syrian state media was on Dec. 25, when a missile attack wounded three Syrian soldiers.

A senior Israeli official said in September Israel had carried out more than 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria in the last two years.

Iranian and Iran-backed militant groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed into Syria in support of Assad regime during the war. 

In an earlier report, SANA had spoken of Syrian air-defense batteries attacking “enemy targets.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to let Tehran — a supporter of Assad — entrench itself militarily in the war-torn country.

On Dec. 25, Assad accused the Israeli air force of firing missiles bear Damascus.

In September a Russian military plane was accidentally shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire that was attempting to block Israeli missiles.

Russia is a main ally of Damascus.


Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

Updated 22 January 2019
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Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

  • The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule
  • Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar to fend off tear gas

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital’s twin city Omdurman on Tuesday protesting against the fatal wounding of a demonstrator last week, witnesses said.

The demonstration, which came ahead of planned nighttime rallies in both Omdurman and Khartoum just across the Nile, was the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against the three-decade rule of President Omar Bashir.

Bashir has made defiant appearances at loyalist rallies in Khartoum and other cities.

Chanting “overthrow, overthrow” and “freedom, peace and justice,” the catchword slogans of the protest movement, the demonstrators had gathered near the home of their dead comrade.

The doctors’ branch of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) said he had died on Monday from wounds sustained when demonstrators clashed with security forces in Khartoum on Thursday.

The SPA has taken the lead in organizing the protests after hundreds of opposition activists were detained, and its doctors’ branch has taken casualties.

Human rights groups say that several medics have been among more than 40 people killed in clashes with the security forces since the protests erupted on Dec. 19, 2018.

The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the protesters’ ranks.

The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Triggered by the government’s tripling of the price of bread, which brought demonstrators onto the streets of the eastern farming hub of Atbara and other provincial towns, the protests rapidly spread to the metropolis and other big cities as people vented their anger against the government.

A chronic shortage of foreign currency since the breakaway of South Sudan in 2011 deprived the government of most of its oil revenues, has stoked spiraling inflation and widespread shortages.

Bashir has survived previous protest movements in September 2013 and January last year.

But his efforts to blame the US for Sudan’s economic woes have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.

“I am tired of prices going up every minute and standing up in bread lines for hours only for the bakery’s owner to decide how many loaves I can buy,” a 42-year-old woman, Fatima, said during protests last week on the outskirts of the capital of Khartoum.

Fatima and others speaking to the AP would not provide their full names, insisting on anonymity because they fear reprisals by the authorities.

Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar or yeast and tree leaves to fend off tear gas. They said they try to fatigue police by staging nighttime flash protests in residential alleys unfamiliar to the security forces.

“We have used tactics employed by the Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians but we have so far refrained from pelting security forces with rocks or firebombs,” said Ashraf, another demonstrator.

They said there was little they can do about live ammunition except to keep medics and doctors close by to administer first aid to casualties.

They also described checking paths of planned protests to identify escape routes and potential ambushes by police. Some of their slogans are borrowed from the Arab Spring days, like “the people want to bring down the regime.”