Israeli raid ‘targets’ military positions inside Syria

Syria’s air defenses intercepted missiles in Masyaf. (File/AP)
Updated 14 April 2019

Israeli raid ‘targets’ military positions inside Syria

  • 17 Syrian troops were wounded in the attack, reports war monitor
  • Israel has in recent months acknowledged it has been striking Iranian targets in Syria

DAMASCUS: An Israeli airstrike on a military position in central Syria early Saturday wounded six soldiers and destroyed several buildings, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes hit three targets, wounding 17 Syrian soldiers. 

It said there were also deaths, but it was not immediately clear how many were killed and whether they were Iranians or Iran-sponsored fighters. 

The strikes targeted the Accounting School as well as a missile development center in a village near Masyaf and a nearby military base run by Iran-backed fighters, the monitor said.

SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying the airstrike near the town of Masyaf, in Hama province, hit a military academy widely known as the Accounting School. It said Israeli warplanes fired missiles toward Syria from Lebanon’s airspace and that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the missiles.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the foreign media report.

“Around 2:30 a.m. ... the Israeli air force carried out a strike targeting one of our military positions in the town of Misyaf,” in Hama province north of Damascus, SANA quoted a military source as saying.

Israel does not usually comment on reports concerning its airstrikes in neighboring Syria, though it has recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets there. The last such strikes that Israel announced were in late March.

“Our air defense batteries intercepted some of the Israeli missiles,” the source said, adding that the strike “wounded three combatants and destroyed buildings.”

The Observatory said the strike targeted a Syrian military college in the town and two buildings used by Iranian forces in nearby villages — a development center for medium-range missiles in Zawi and a training camp in Sheikh Ghadban. Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

With the support of the US administration of President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly to take whatever military action he deems necessary to prevent archfoe Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah establishing a continuing military presence.

Late last month, Trump broke with decades of international consensus to recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of the strategic Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The move was a diplomatic prize for Israel, but met with a chorus of opposition from US foes and allies alike.

Iran and Hezbollah have both intervened in Syria’s civil war, which erupted in 2011 to support forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

They were joined in 2015 by Russia, which supplied its S300 air defense system to Assad’s forces after a Russian aircraft was downed by mistake by Syrian defense systems during an Israeli raid on Sept. 17, killing all 15 people on board.

After several months of frosty relations, Russia and Israeli resumed coordination of their military operations in Syria and Israel’s bombing campaign picked up again.

Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has sent military advisers, as well as thousands of fighters from across the region, to help his forces in the eight-year conflict.

Israel considers Iran its biggest threat and has said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence on its borders.

The most serious wave of airstrikes on Syria this year occurred in January, when the Israeli military hit several Iranian targets, saying it was responding to an Iranian missile attack a day earlier. The Iranian launch followed a rare Israeli daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.


Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 38 min 53 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”