Israeli strikes kill six in Syria after Palestinian rocket barrage

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on February 24, 2020, reportedly shows Syrian air defense intercepting an Israeli missile over Damascus. (SANA/AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Israeli strikes kill six in Syria after Palestinian rocket barrage

  • Residents said multiple explosions shook Damascus and lasted for about 15 minutes as air defenses fired back
  • Israel claimed responsibility, saying it staged a series of strikes targeting the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in Syria and the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: Israeli air strikes targeting the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip and Syria killed at least six fighters, a war monitor said Monday, after the militants fired a barrage of rockets at Israel.

In the latest tit-for-tat violence ahead of a March 2 general election in the Jewish state, the Israeli Air Force targeted “Islamic Jihad terror sites” throughout Gaza and near the Syrian capital Damascus, a military statement said.

It followed more than 20 rockets and mortars fired from the Palestinian enclave, themselves a response to the killing of an Islamic Jihad militant along the Gaza-Israel border.

Islamic Jihad, which along with allied group Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, operates in both the Gaza Strip and Syria.

The Israeli army said it had struck Islamic Jihad targets on the outskirts of Damascus, including a base “used as a hub” for the group’s activities in the country.

Islamic Jihad, which is allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad, confirmed early Monday that two of its fighters were killed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, later confirmed that four additional pro-Assad, Iran-backed fighters died in the strike.

At least one of the Iran-backed fighters was Syrian, while the nationalities of the others remained unknown, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, mainly targeting government troops as well as allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

It is rare for them to claim such strikes directly.

Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s military said it had killed a militant in Gaza who had tried to plant an explosive device near the border fence.

Israel later confirmed that it extracted the militant’s body with a bulldozer.

Israel’s hawkish Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has pursued a policy of retaining the bodies of militants from Gaza as bargaining chips to pressure Hamas, which has held the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since 2014.

A video emerged later on social media, which was authenticated by AFP, showing a bulldozer approaching a body while a group of young, apparently unarmed men, were trying to retrieve it.

The sound of gunfire is heard and the men ultimately run away as the bulldozer scoops up the body.

Hours later, more than 20 rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza toward Israel, setting off warning sirens in the southern city of Ashkelon and several other locations.

More than a dozen were intercepted by the Jewish state’s Iron Dome missile defense system, the Israeli army said, adding there were no reports of serious injuries in Israel.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets, calling them a response to the killing of one its fighters along the Gaza border early Sunday.

Israeli military said it responded to the rocket fire by targeting “dozens” of Islamic Jihad targets throughout Gaza.

Health officials in Gaza said four people were wounded.

Hamas and Israel last fought a full-scale war in 2014, but smaller flareups are relatively common.

In November, Islamic Jihad and Israel fought a three-day conflict that left 35 Palestinians dead and more than 100 wounded, according to official figures.

Under the informal agreements in the past year, Israel has slightly eased a blockade of the impoverished Palestinian enclave in exchange for relative calm.

 


European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

Updated 6 min 46 sec ago

European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

  • The February tourney looks set to be one of the strongest events on European Tour schedule

JEDDAH: European Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood join defending champion Graeme McDowell in looking to get their campaign to qualify for the 2021 European Ryder Cup team off to the strongest possible start at the Saudi International.

The tournament, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, will take place  Feb. 4 -7 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

With world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson and 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau confirmed for the event, along with reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and US stars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, the strength of the field means huge ranking points will be on offer for Europe’s leading golfers as they look to get their 2021 qualifying efforts off to a fast start and secure a coveted place on the 2021 European Ryder Cup team.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum resulting from hosting two extremely successful Ladies European Tour events this month as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Fleetwood, a six-time winner on the European Tour and standout player in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Paris in 2018, is making his debut this year in the Saudi International. He said: “From all I’ve heard from the lads who played there the last couple of years, the Saudi International has established itself as one of the leading events on the European Tour both in terms of set up and facilities as well as quality of the field, which is really impressive this year.”

Poulter, who played for the first time in the 2020 edition, said: “I really enjoyed the tournament at the beginning of this year and am psyched to be returning next February. The course sets up for my game rather nicely so I was pretty frustrated to only finish in the top 20 and will certainly be aiming to finish rather higher up the leaderboard this year!

“It’s a fantastic championship course with some amazing vistas and I also really like the fact we get to play a part in introducing golf to a whole new audience in a new region. With Ryder Cup qualification on the line, I am obviously looking to get my campaign off to a fast start and getting a decent finish or winning the Saudi International against such a stellar field would be massive.

“It’s been a really weird year with the pandemic so we are all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and I am hoping it is also a strong start as I keep my eyes firmly focused on qualifying for the European team at Whistling Straits,” he added.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “This announcement marks yet another amazing group of golf stars joining our 2021 field and the excitement of all the players to kick off afresh in 2021, in Saudi Arabia, is heartening to hear.

“The lineup for the tournament is looking strong and with more players still to be announced in the coming weeks — and on the back of two excellent Ladies European Tour events earlier this month — we are very much looking forward to the third edition of our tournament. We believe it will be the strongest installment to date and will serve as a fabulous illustration that Saudi Arabia is open for business.”